December 29, 2014 | Volume 11, Issue 122
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Does a vegetarian diet make you
more susceptible to knee pain?
One of the most common problems in people over 50 years old is osteoarthritis of the knee. I'll bet close to 20% of all my readers are dealing with achy knees. There are a lot of factors that determine who is going to have problems in their knees and who won't. One of them is very definitely vitamin D. And the interesting thing is that it takes only a little vitamin D to make a big difference.

Recently researchers looked at 418 men and women with osteoarthritis of at least one knee. They all had pain. And they all had positive X-rays. They followed these patients for up to 48 months to see who got worse and who didn't.

They also checked their vitamin D blood levels. They discovered that having enough vitamin D was important. About 16% of them had vitamin D levels below 15 ng/ml. This is an extremely low level of vitamin D. The patients with a level less than 15 were more than two times as likely to develop more pain and worse X-rays than those with a level higher than 15.

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Another study took a different tack. In that study, the authors looked at 180 patients with osteoarthritis of the knees. They compared their diets to 180 people who were of similar age and health status whose knees were fine. They found a significantly lower intake of vitamin D in all of the arthritis cases compared to those who had healthy knees. They also found that the patients with arthritis had diets that were higher in green leafy vegetables and lower in dairy, meats, and fish, whereas the healthy knee group had diets with less leafy greens and more dairy, meats, and fish. What's the difference between these two? The more vegetarian types of diets are lower in vitamin D.

So if you have arthritis of the knee, especially if you tend toward a vegetarian lifestyle, make sure you have your vitamin D level checked. A level of 60-70 ng/ml is the best level to be at. So if you are below that number, please take enough vitamin D to get in that range.

Yours for better health,


Zhang FF, Driban JB, Lo GH, et al. Vitamin d deficiency is associated with progression of knee osteoarthritis. J Nutr. 2014 Dec;144(12):2002-8.

Sanghi D, Mishra A, Sharma AC, et al. Elucidation of Dietary Risk Factors in Osteoarthritis Knee-A Case-Control Study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014 Nov 11:1-7.

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