D is for delightful health

Lower levels of vitamin D contribute to pain sensitivity

By Tracy Brown Wright

Lower levels of vitamin D contribute to greater pain sensitivity in black Americans with knee osteoarthritis than among their white counterparts, according to a UF study.

Findings published Nov. 7 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism indicate that low levels of vitamin D may be one of many factors that account for increased pain in older black Americans with knee osteoarthritis. Black participants in the study had significantly lower levels of vitamin D compared with white participants, which may be because people with dark skin require longer periods of sun exposure to make adequate vitamin D.

The study examined whether low vitamin D levels could explain racial disparities in chronic pain.

“People associate vitamin D with good bone health,” said lead author, Toni L. Glover, M.S.N., A.R.N.P., a research nurse practitioner and doctoral candidate at the UF College of Nursing, specializing in the study of pain in older adults. “Yet, not everyone is aware of what factors decrease vitamin D and how low levels could contribute to health issues, including chronic pain.”

Based on 2005 U.S. census data, the National Arthritis Data Workgroup estimates that 27 million Americans over 25 have osteoarthritis. People with this condition experience painful swelling and stiffness of the joints, such as knees, hips and fingers.

Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, but it also functions as a hormone and studies have found that decreased levels are associated with reduced immunity and may contribute to diseases such as cancer and diabetes, Glover said.

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