Vitamin D deficiency 'common' in rheumatic diseases

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vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an essential role in the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus, so it is crucial for the formation and health of bones, teeth and cartilage. Two new studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with a range of rheumatic diseases.

Research presented at the annual congress of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) suggests that over half of all rheumatic patients have levels below the recommended threshold.

In the first study, UK scientists studied 180 patients with inflammatory joint diseases, osteoarthritis or myalgia (muscle pain).

They found that 58 per cent of participants had vitamin D levels below those considered to be acceptable.

Meanwhile, Italian scientists looked at 1,191 patients with rheumatoid arthritis in order to compare vitamin D levels with measures of disease activity.

Their study revealed that levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a measure of vitamin D in the blood) were lower than normal in 85 per cent of patients who did not take supplements.

Vitamin D levels were also low in 60 per cent of rheumatoid arthritis patients who did take supplements of 800IU or more per day.

Analysis of patients who did not take supplements revealed that vitamin D levels were linked to individuals' degree of disability, mobility and number of swollen joints.

Dr Luca Idolazzi, from the University of Verona's rheumatology unit, commented: "We have seen in studies that vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with a range of rheumatic diseases, and our results have confirmed this using several clinically accepted measures of disease activity.

"What we need to see now is a range of long-term studies which examine the clinical response of patients to vitamin D supplementation."

Vitamin D can be found naturally in some foods (salmon, mackerel, tuna, fish oils and eggs) and can be generated in our bodies by exposure to sunlight.

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