The Skinny on Fat Soluble Vitamins in Osteoarthritis

Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Published Online: Thursday, April 5th, 2018
With age, almost everyone develops at least some osteoarthritis (OA). Researchers have been unable to determine a precise cause of OA, and without a good idea of how it develops, prevention is impossible and treatments are only symptomatic. Chronic and degenerative, this joint disease develops pursuant to a metabolic imbalance in bone.

Researchers continue to look for factors that may influence OA’s development, and especially for factors that could be targeted. On such area of research, discussed in a review article in the April 2018 issue of Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, is the role of fat soluble vitamins. These authors looked at the 4 fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and gathered all available information about their potential impact on OA’s pathology through early 2017. They also looked for studies that examined how supplementation may affect OA.

Their findings are interesting:
  • Vitamin A’s role is the most unclear, although researchers have proven it regulates cartilage and skeletal formation. Elevated levels of vitamin A’s metabolites in synovial fluid seem to promote OA development, indicating that vitamin A supplementation probably has no role in OA.
  • Vitamin D is critical for skeletal development and maintenance, and it also affects bone and cartilage metabolism. Patients who have vitamin D deficiencies may be at higher risk for OA. It appears that vitamin D supplementation may decrease levels of IL-6 and the leptin-to-adiponection ratio.
  • Vitamin E enhances chondrocyte growth, possesses anti-inflammatory activity, and prevents cartilage degeneration. The authors indicate that it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties related to lipid peroxidation inhibition and collagen degradation.
  • Vitamin K influences growth plate calcification and cartilage mineralization, and deficiencies have detrimental effects on both. Supplementation may reduce bone loss and fractures.
The authors indicate that supplementation with fat soluble vitamins may provide innovative approaches for OA management, but these findings are preliminary. At this time, guidelines do not recommend fat soluble vitamin supplementation for OA.


Zheng XY, Liang J, Li YS, Tu M. Role of Fat-Soluble Vitamins in Osteoarthritis Management. J Clin Rheumatol. 2018;24(3):132-137.

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