According to a new study, low levels of vitamin D may be the underlying cause of chronic widespread pain, a major public health problem in the UK that affects around 1 in 5 people. Around 50% of UK adults have a vitamin D deficiency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods, including fish liver oil, fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks and liver. In the US, vitamin D is commonly added to food products including milk and cheese.
One of the best ways to get vitamin D in the body is through exposure to sunlight, which is transported to the liver and converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Not only is vitamin D crucial for good bone health, but it also helps with muscle strength as well as protection against cancer and type 2 diabetes risk.
For the present study, researchers from the University of Manchester in the UK looked at over 2,300 men who were already enlisted in the European Male Ageing Study. Their results show that men with vitamin D deficiency at the start of the study were more than twice as likely to experience chronic widespread pain, compared with those who had the highest levels.
Further, 1 in 15 men who had no symptoms at the start of the study developed chronic widespread pain over the next 4-5 years - and these men were more likely to suffer from obesity along with being physically inactive, depressed and experiencing other adverse health conditions.
Musculoskeletal pain is a recognized symptom of severe vitamin D deficiency states such as osteomalacia. Interestingly, when adverse health and lifestyle factors were taken into account, the link with vitamin D deficiency disappeared.
This might mean that such factors significantly impact the development of chronic widespread pain, and suggests that there may be a complex interplay between various factors responsible for this condition.
Further research is needed to find out whether normalizing the levels of vitamin D alone is enough to treat this painful condition.