Vitamin D3 and Knee Osteoarthritis

Vitamin D3 supplementation has become more and more popular in recent years.  It almost seems as if it is the new fountain of youth.  Many practitioners had taken to checking blood levels of vitamin D3 in patients, and advising patients to subsequently take the supplement for it, if levels are low, or even just borderline low.  Vitamin D3 is thought to play an important role in a multitude of processes in the body.  It is thought to help regulate hormones, digestion, and even play a role in the development of osteoarthritis.  More and more practitioners are telling their patients to stop taking extra calcium, and to only supplement with vitamin D3, as this may be enough to keep your body's calcium stores at optimal levels.

I chose to see how vitamin D3 played a role in actually maintaining knee cartilage in osteoarthritis.  I took one high quality, randomized controlled trial and put together the numbers and evidence, in the Star BlocksTM.  By putting the evidence into the  Star BlocksTM, I was able to really compare the effect of vitamin D3 supplementation and placebo.  It quickly became obvious that vitamin D3 did not significantly increase the thickness of knee cartilage by much more than placebo, and thus did not alter the long term course of knee osteoarthritis.  It also became readily clear that vitamin D3 did not significantly decrease knee pain, as compared to placebo.  Thus, treatment of knee osteoarthritis with vitamin D3 has the same treatment gradeTM  as placebo.

If you are wondering why the treatment scoreTM for vitamin D3 is actually lower than that of placebo, it is for a few reasons.  One is that there was no significant improvement in either pain or cartilage volume over placebo.  You would still think that even though these results are not statistically significant, vitamin D3 should not receive such a low score.  Well, upon further examination, vitamin D3 did have a few more serious side effects than placebo, such as cardiac arrhythmia and death (1 case).  For this, I elected to give vitamin D3 a lower overall treatment scoreTM than placebo.

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