Vitamin E and the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Health Professional

Does Vitamin E help the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

There has been a fair amount of talk and controversy surrounding vitamin E and its potential effect on everything from heart disease to cataracts to Alzheimer's disease to cancer. Does vitamin E help with the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and is it right for you? Only your doctor can tell you if vitamin E supplementation might be right for you. With regards to whether or not vitamin E supplementation is helpful for the symptoms of osteoarthritis, let's look at some of the evidence.

In 1978, Machtey and Ouaknine published a study in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society entitled "Tocopherol in Osteoarthritis: a controlled pilot study." A form of tocopherol is vitamin E. In this study, thirty two patients with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to one of two groups. In the first group, patients were given 600 mg of tocopherol (vitamin E) for ten days. In the second group, patients were given a placebo for ten days. After ten days, the patients receiving the placebo were given tocopherol 600 mg for ten days, and those given the tocopherol first were then given a placebo for ten days. Physicians measured their pain scores throughout the study period. The authors noted that 52% of the patients received "good" analgesic effect, whereas only 4% of patients on the placebo received "good" analgesic effect.

In 1990, Scherak et al. published a study in a German journal, Zeitschrift fur Rheumatologie, titled (translated) "High dosage vitamin E therapy in patients with activated arthrosis." In this study, fifty three patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis were randomized to be treated with either vitamin E 400 mg or an anti-inflammatory medication (diclofenac 50 mg). The treatment in both groups lasted for three weeks. The authors found that the two treatments were "equally effective" for reducing pain and increasing mobility.

So, we come back to the question, does vitamin E help with the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and is it right for you? As I said before, only your doctor can tell you if vitamin E supplementation may be right for you. There does appear to be some tantalizing evidence that vitamin E supplementation may be helpful for the symptoms of osteoarthritis; however this evidence is far from conclusive. Much more research needs to be done before vitamin E can be recommended as a viable treatment for the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The current studies are too few, with too many design flaws, and with too few subjects for definitive recommendations to be made.

Talk to your primary care doctor about whether vitamin E supplementation is safe and appropriate for you. In the meantime, it is worth knowing which foods contain relatively more amounts of vitamin E. These foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, spinach, collard greens, tomatoes, mangos, avocados, broccoli, and blueberries. Read my blog about the importance of eating enough fruits and vegetables. If you eat ample quantities of these, you will likely be getting enough.