Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vitamin Sunshine: Reducing Arthritis Risk

The sunshine vitamin, or vitamin D, might help prevent rheumatoid arthritis
The sunshine vitamin, or vitamin D, might help prevent rheumatoid arthritis
Image: Shutterstock
My favorite things to read about in the health world are natural remedies. It’s like eating chicken soup and drinking hot tea when you’re sick—it just leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I’m lucky enough that I don’t suffer from arthritis (yet), but I do know plenty of people who have. Rheumatoid arthritis is particularly scary, especially for women. It can be incredibly painful and happens when the body’s immune system begins attacking the joints. We do not yet know why this happens.

But a new study brings light—literally—to the situation. There’s a chance that the “sunshine vitamin,” or Vitamin D, may reduce the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted two separate surveys of over 100,000 women. The first group was monitored beginning in 1976 and the second in 1989.

The sunshine vitamin, or vitamin D, might help prevent rheumatoid arthritis
Image from webMD.com
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body attacks its own joints
Researchers estimated the women’s UV-B radiation exposure based on where they had lived and then compared it to their overall health. Their findings were mixed, but researchers remain optimistic. In the 1976 group, women who got more sunlight were up to 21% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. There seemed to be no affect on the 1989 group.

“Our study adds to the growing evidence that exposure to UV-B light is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis,” the report reads, continuing on to suggest that “differences in sun protective behaviors” might be the reason for the discrepancy between the two groups of women.

But Dr. Chris Deighton, President of the British Society for Rheumatology cautions, “We cannot advocate everybody sitting in the sunshine all day to protect from rheumatoid arthritis, because UV-B burns people and increases the risk of skin cancer.”

Another professor in the UK, Alan Simlan echoed Deighton’s sentiment, but with a peppering of encouragement. In lieu of additional studies, he recommended that people “go out in the sunshine for up to 15 minutes in the summer months and expose their face and arms to the sun to top up their vitamin D levels.”

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