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Vitamin E Doesn't Prevent Osteoarthritis Pain

Vitamin E Doesn't Prevent Osteoarthritis Pain

October 26, 2001 By Emma Hitt, PhD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The antioxidant vitamin E does not appear to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis (OA), according to new research findings.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive deterioration in the cartilage of certain joints, including the knee and vertebrae. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inherited autoimmune disease, osteoarthritis results from overuse of joints, and can be a byproduct of strenuous sports, obesity or aging.

According to the authors, writing in the October issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, other studies "have supported a role for antioxidant treatment in the management of OA knee."

Dr. Flavia Cicuttini and colleagues from Monash University in Prahran, Australia, wanted to determine whether vitamin E would help relieve the pain of osteoarthritis without causing the side effects associated with other standard treatments for osteoarthritis pain.

To answer this question, they conducted a 6-month study involving 77 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients received either 500 IU a day of vitamin E--about 33 times the recommended daily allowance (15 IU/day)--or an inactive placebo.

The researchers then compared the vitamin E and placebo groups for the level of pain, stiffness and ability to function.

The investigators found that vitamin E was no better at relieving symptoms than placebo at 1, 3 or 6 months after treatment began. In fact, the placebo group showed improved pain levels at the completion of the study compared to the group receiving vitamin E.

"The reasons for the better performance of the placebo group are uncertain," according to the authors, but they suggest it may be because the placebo group started out with a higher average pain score and perhaps had more room for improvement than the vitamin E group.

"Our results do not support a role for vitamin E in the treatment of symptoms in knee OA," Cicuttini and colleagues conclude.

"At this stage, we believe there is no clear evidence on which to advise people with osteoarthritis to take long-term vitamin E," Cicuttini told Reuters Health.

However, Cicuttini said her team is interested in finding out whether vitamin E can stop osteoarthritis from progressing or becoming more severe.

"We are in the process of analyzing data to answer this question," she said. "We are currently examining whether vitamin E stops the loss of joint cartilage and therefore may be protective."

Cicuttini also remarked that "significant progress is being made in our understanding of osteoarthritis, which will have major impact on treatment of this condition."

SOURCE: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2001;60:946-949.