LONDON, ENGLAND. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the main clinical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers at the Royal London School of Medicine now report that supplementation with vitamin E markedly reduces arthritis pain. Their double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 39 rheumatoid arthritis patients between the ages of 24 and 75 years. Two-thirds of the patients were women. After a three-week run-in period during which the baseline characteristics of the patients were determined the participants were randomized into two groups. The first group received 600 mg d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate twice daily while the second group received placebos. All participants continued with their regular anti-rheumatic drugs (primarily NSAIDs). After 12 weeks the blood level of vitamin-E in the active treatment group had risen by 127 per cent. The patients were thoroughly evaluated after one, four, eight and twelve weeks of treatment and again eight weeks after cessation of treatment. While no significant changes were noted as far as inflammatory activity, swelling, and oxidation of proteins and lipids are concerned, 60 per cent of the vitamin E-treated patients reported a marked decrease in pain both in the morning and in the evening, and during specific activities as compared to 32 per cent for placebo patients. The pain reduction occurred after two weeks of treatment and was maintained until the end of the treatment period. It was, however, lost once the vitamin E supplementation was discontinued. The researchers conclude that vitamin E has a central analgesic (pain-killing) effect in rheumatoid arthritis patients which is independent of its antioxidant properties. They speculate that the effect may be due to interference with nitric oxide production or to an inhibiting effect on protein kinase C.
Edmonds, S.E., et al. Putative analgesic activity of repeated oral doses of vitamin E in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Vol. 56, November 1997, pp. 649-55