Vitamin D Studies Cast Doubts on Effectiveness

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • Vitamin D continues to be in the news.  A recent study conducted in the UK found that women were more likely than men to have chronic pain problems when they were deficient in Vitamin D.  Now scientists are wondering if this suggests hormones may play a role in the vitamin D – chronic pain link. 

    The study looked at 6,824 men and women from England, Scotland and Wales who were all born the same week in March 1958 and who all reported high rates of chronic pain.  The findings showed that women who had vitamin D levels below 25 mmol/l (millimoles/liter) had the highest rates of pain; and women with levels between 75 and 99 mmol/l – the level considered necessary for bone health – had the lowest pain rates.  Men did not seem to be as affected by their vitamin D levels.  While a severe lack of vitamin D can lead to the painful bone disease osteomalacia (known as rickets in children), the researchers said this did not account for their findings. 

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    Problems with the Study

    I have not been able to acquire a copy of the full report, but from the research abstract and BBC News article about it, I have no concrete reason to doubt the data gathered in the study.  I do, however, have a problem related to the study. 

    It’s difficult for me to take a study seriously that starts with an erroneous premise.  The objective for this study begins, “Identified etiological factors for chronic widespread pain (CWP) are largely related to emotional and behavioral factors…”  It goes on to indicate that, “Vitamin D deficiency has been suggested as a novel modifiable risk factor for CWP.”  Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but what this says to me is the researchers “know” chronic widespread pain is a psychological problem, but they’re willing to entertain the idea vitamin D may play some small role. 

    There has been a concerted effort by government in the UK for some time now to label chronic pain illnesses like fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis (or chronic fatigue syndrome) as emotional issues best treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.  The hint that the results of this study suggest there may be a hormonal link sounds to me like they are trying to say CWP may be attributable to “hormonal women.”  I hope I’m wrong.

    Putting the Puzzle Together

    It’s important to remember that no single research study holds all the answers.  At best, a well-conducted study will help unlock a piece of the puzzle that one day will hopefully result in a clear picture revealing the cause and/or cure for these painful illnesses.  In the meantime, we need to evaluate each study and see where its piece fits in the puzzle.

    Read my other SharePosts on Vitamin D and Chronic Pain:

    Sources:
    Vitamin D and chronic widespread pain in a white middle-aged British population: evidence from a cross-sectional population survey.
    Annals of Rheumatic Disease. 12 August 2008.


  • Pain 'linked with low vitamin D.' BBC News. 11 August 2008.

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Published On: August 14, 2008