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Vitamin B12, Folic Acid Help in Arthritis

Copyright © 1995 by Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter™
All rights reserved.

"Historically, dietary causes have been associated with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but the idea is controversial, with little evidence that specific diet components are effective," wrote Margaret Flynn, PhD, in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (Aug. 1994;13:351-6).

But based on a recently discovered link between vitamin B12 and bone metabolism, the University of Missouri, Columbia, researcher decided to measure the effects of B12, folate, and Acetaminophen (the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, used in Tylenol) on 26 men and women who had suffered from osteoarthritis of the hands for at least five years.

The study began with a 10-day "washout" period in which patients stopped taking any vitamins or pain-relieving drugs. For three two-month periods, they randomly took (1) 6,400 mcg of folate, (2) 6,400 mcg folate and 20 mcg B12, or (3) a placebo. They were also instructed to take Acetaminophen as needed for pain.

Flynn reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (Aug. 1994;13:351-6) that patients taking B12 and folate could exert greater hand-grip pressure than those taking just the folate or the placebo. The subjects taking B12 and folate also reported less pain and stiffness. In addition, patients taking the two vitamins had much less need for acetaminophen.

Inadequate levels of these two vitamins can be caused by a number of factors. "Nutrients in food can be changed in cooking, discarded in cooking water, malabsorbed under influence of other food components and over-the-counter or prescribed drugs," wrote Flynn. "People make poor food choices daily for various reasons: financial, fear of certain foods, personal preferences, belief of 'allergies' to foods, food fads and poor dentures, all of which also interfere with nutritional status. Physiologic changes in (the) aging gastrointestinal tract contribute to digestive and absorptive processes."

She concluded by stating, "Side effects of the vitamin combination were none; side effects of NSAIDs are many. Cost of the vitamins is lower. Further research of the effect of B12-Folate in human arthritis is promising and needed."

This article originally appeared in The Nutrition Reporter™ newsletter.


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