Study links rheumatoid arthritis to vitamin D deficiency

April 7, 2010, Boston University Medical Center

Women living in the northeastern United States are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA), suggesting a link between the autoimmune disease and vitamin D deficiency, says a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher.

In the paper, which appears online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, a spatial analysis led by Dr. Verónica Vieira, MS, DSc, associate professor of environmental health, found that women in states like Vermont, New Hampshire and southern Maine were more likely to report being diagnosed with RA.

"There's higher risk in the northern latitudes," Dr. Vieira said. "This might be related to the fact that there's less sunlight in these areas, which results in a ."

The study looked at data from the Nurses' Health Study, a long-term cohort study of U.S. female nurses. Looking at the residential addresses, health outcomes and behavioral risk factors for participants between 1988 and 2002, researchers based their findings on 461 women who had RA, compared to a large control group of 9,220.

RA is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the joints, mostly in the hands and knees. This chronic is characterized by swelling and redness and can wear down the cartilage between bones. RA is two to three times more common in women than in men.

Although the cause of RA is unknown, the researchers wrote, earlier studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency, which can be caused by a lack of sunlight, has already been associated with a variety of other .

"A geographic association with northern latitudes has also been observed for multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease, other autoimmune diseases that may be mediated by reduced vitamin D from decreased solar exposure and the immune effects of vitamin D deficiency," the authors wrote.

The authors said further research is needed to look into the relationship between vitamin D exposure and RA.

Dr. Vieira said she and her co-authors were somewhat surprised by the findings. A previous geographic study of RA had suggested an ecologic association with air pollution, she said.

"The results were unexpected," Dr. Vieira said. "Prior to the analysis, we were more interested in the relationship with air pollution. I hadn't given latitudes much thought."

In addition to the geographic variation, the study suggested that the timing of residency may influence RA risk. "Slightly higher odds ratios were observed for the 1988 analysis suggesting that long term exposure may be more important than recent exposure," the study said.

Dr. Vieira and other BUSPH researchers previously have used innovative spatial-temporal analyses to study the incidence of breast cancer, specifically focused on Cape Cod.

More information: Study link.

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4 comments

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fixer
1 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2010
I guess 20 years ago this was news, long disproven.
This is one of those joke articles that people slip in now and then.
doctorkim
Apr 08, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JeffJohnson17
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
"Women living in the northeastern United States are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA), suggesting a link between the autoimmune disease and vitamin D deficiency, says a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher."
Men get Rheumatoid Arthritis as well. Is the author just sexist or did I miss something?
fixer
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
The problem with "D" levels is the standard level.
It's assumed the standards are correct if a large cross section of the public has a similar level and this is assumed to be the norm.
But, High sun exposure and a diet rich in omega 3's gives an elevated "norm" across the board.
The body makes it's own "D", as much as it needs and when more "D" is added artificially the natural production is suppressed.
Remember, D is a steroid, it acts as a pain supressor but it does not remove the cause of the pain!
As a sufferer of autoimmune disease I kmow this well.
My own "D" level is now down to 18ng/ml and I am recovering nicely despite conventional thinking.
Here is the link for those who, like me, want their lives back.
http://bacteriali...-the-mp/

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