Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency
Women living in the northeastern United States are more likely to develop rheumatoid
arthritis (RA), suggesting a link between the autoimmune disease and vitamin D deficiency,
says a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher.
In the paper, which appears online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, a spatial
analysis led by Dr. Vernica Vieira, MS, DSc, associate professor of environmental health,
found that women in states like Vermont, New Hampshire and southern Maine were more
likely to report being diagnosed with RA.
"There's higher risk in the northern latitudes," Dr. Vieira said. "This might be related to the
fact that there's less sunlight in these areas, which results in a vitamin D deficiency."
The study looked at data from the Nurses' Health Study, a long-term cohort study of U.S.
female nurses. Looking at the residential addresses, health outcomes and behavioral risk
factors for participants between 1988 and 2002, researchers based their findings on 461
women who had RA, compared to a large control group of 9,220.
RA is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the joints, mostly in the hands
and knees. This chronic arthritis is characterized by swelling and redness and can wear down
the cartilage between bones. RA is two to three times more common in women than in men.