November 12, 2001
Vitamin E May Not Be Effective Against Osteoarthritis
PRAHRAN, Australia--A study published in the October issue ofAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases (60:946-49, 2001) (www.annrheumdis.com)indicated that participants taking 500 IU/d vitamin E for six months did notexperience a reduction of pain related to osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Infact, the placebo group reported a decrease in pain levels at the studyscompletion, although researchers guessed that this finding was due to the factthat the subjects taking placebo indicated higher degrees of pain at baseline.
The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 77 patientswith OA of the knee who were monitored with regard to pain, stiffness andfunction. Results indicated that vitamin E did not benefit patients at onemonth, three months or six months for any of the outcome measures. Researchersfrom the Alfred Hospital, led by Dr. C. Brand, concluded that vitamin E showedno benefit for managing the symptoms of knee OA, although they noted that therole of vitamin E in preventing OA progression is currently being studied.
Vitamin E and other antioxidants quench free radials and therefore canreduce the progression of [osteoarthritis], commented Vishwa Singh, Ph.D.,director of human nutrition research at Parsippany, N.J.-based Roche VitaminsInc. Its not the etiology of the disease itself [vitamin E] will work on,but the consequences of the disease--which lead to more aggravation--that can beminimized by antioxidants.
The Australian researchers noted that short-term clinical studies havedemonstrated that subjects taking vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) reported similarrelief of pain over placebo as in studies using diclofenac (a prescriptionmedicine indicated for the acute and chronic treatment of signs and symptoms ofOA and rheumatoid arthritis). Researchers also mentioned that previous researchhas indicated vitamin E for reducing symptoms of OA.
One such publication that indicated vitamin Es effectiveness against OAwas published in Rheumatologie (57(4):207-14, 1998). German researchersin Munich conducted a research review covering vitamin E therapy in rheumaticdiseases. The review authors concluded, [S]tudies with sound methodology haveshown a beneficial effect in rheumatic diseases, mainly in the reduction ofpain.
In regard to the failure of the Australian study to demonstrate benefits forpatients with osteoarthritis, Dr. Singh added, The outcome measurement thathas been done in this case in terms of determining the pain threshold is perhapsnot the right tool to reflect the benefit of vitamin E on this condition. One ofthe criteria for working with vitamin E would be antioxidant property. If onehas to see the benefit and measure it, it should be done in terms of long-termprogression of the disease and secondary manifestations, that is, inflammationand prolonged degradation of the tissue itself.
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