Science Update

Recent Review Highlights the Role of Certain Micronutrients in Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disease typically affecting the hips, knees, hands, feet, or spine. It often results in stiffness, pain, and function loss. OA is increasing in prevalence and globally, there are more than 250 million individuals who are currently affected by knee or hip OA, or both.   

A recent review article by Wei and colleagues explored the potential impact certain nutraceuticals may have on individuals with OA. The authors discuss the potential for supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to influence markers related to OA. Omega-3 (n-3) PUFAs, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), have been shown to support a healthy response to inflammation and oxidative stress. The n-3 PUFAs have been shown to modulate certain molecules including interleukin-1β and matrix metallopeptidase-13 (MMP-13). The MMP-13 expression has been associated with increases in OA. Wei and colleagues report that recent clinical studies show insufficient evidence to suggest that PUFA supplementation may influence clinical symptoms; however, the authors note that the current literature contains studies that did not contain clinically relevant doses. More studies need to be conducted before conclusions can be determined.  

Wei and colleagues also discuss the role of vitamin D in OA. Research suggests that vitamin D may potentially contribute in part to the etiology behind OA. Deficiencies in vitamin D status are associated with diminished joint function, cartilage loss, and impaired quality of life in individuals with OA. A population-based cohort study involving more than 800 participants found a significant association between knee pain and low serum vitamin D levels. A randomized clinical trial involving over 100 individuals with knee OA and vitamin D deficiency reported a significant decrease in knee pain after supplementation with vitamin D.  

Vitamin K has been shown to support bone health and healthy calcium metabolism. Vitamin K levels have been shown to decrease with age. Low plasma levels of vitamin K have been associated with parameters related to OA.  

Certain vitamins that support antioxidative status may influence the body’s response to OA. Vitamin C has been shown in animal studies to support cartilage health and collagen synthesis. A randomized clinical trial involving supplementation with vitamin C in individuals with hip or knee OA reported pain reduction when compared to a placebo.  

Studies indicate that certain micronutrients, such as vitamins C, D, and K, and PUFAs, may support some aspects of health related to OA. Supplementation with these micronutrients may support bone and joint health, antioxidative status, and the inflammatory response. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT