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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Can some time in the sun decrease your risk of rheumatoid arthritis?

If you get casual sun exposure you may be decreasing your risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to research published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

In 2005, roughly 1.5 million people over the age of 18 had RA, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. RA is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues, typically in the hands and feet. Although the cause of RA is unknown, it is considered to be an autoimmune disease.

The Vitamin D Council published a brief news story covering the study, but I would like to add some thoughts to the summary.

Elizabeth Arkema, PhD, and colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), a prospective group of female nurses aged 30-55 years which began in 1976, and the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), which included women aged 25-42 starting in 1989. The participants completed questionnaires every 2 years assessing diseases, lifestyle and health practices. The researchers analyzed UVB exposure from UVB flux data available by state across the US. Women were monitored in the study until 2008 for the NHS group and 2009 for NHSII.

A total of 221,900 women were included in the study, of which 1,314 had RA. The authors found the following:

  • Among women in NHS, higher average UVB exposure was associated with a significant decrease in RA risk.
  • Those in the highest UVB category had a 21% decreased risk of RA when compared with the lowest UVB exposure (p=0.005).
  • There was no association between UVB exposure and risk of RA in NHSII.

Why was there an association in the NHS group and not the NHSII group, you ask? Well, UVB could have a protective effect for older-onset RA but not younger-onset RA. The difference could also be due to variation in sun exposure habits. “…the later birth cohort of NHSII participants (born between 1946 and 1964) were more likely aware of the dangers of sun exposure and, perhaps, had more sun-protective behavior making residential UV-B not as good a proxy for actual sun exposure in NHSII.”

Interestingly, a separate analysis found that UVB at the time of blood draw was a significant predictor of vitamin D status among women in NHS but not among those in NHSII.

The authors also point out that a majority of participants lived in the same state at birth and at age 30. Consequently, the researchers cannot determine whether the observed association is due to UV exposure during childhood or during adulthood.

The study confirms past research on the association between geographic location and RA risk, although this is the first study to use UVB data by state to measure UVB exposure. The authors call for future research to further investigate a vitamin D dose response relationship to RA. They also want to look into whether UVB exposure during childhood or adulthood is associated with a decreased risk of RA.

Do you know anyone with RA who lives at northern latitudes?


Arkema EV, Hart JE, Bertrand KA, Laden F, Grodstein F, Rosner BA, Karlson EW, Costenbader KH. Exposure to ultraviolet-B and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis among women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2013.

Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nov 19. 2012.

  About: Kate Saley

Kate was the Community Coordinator for the Vitamin D Council between 2012-2013. She oversaw the Council’s social media, blog, newsletter and membership base. Kate is currently going to school for occupational therapy.

10 Responses to Can some time in the sun decrease your risk of rheumatoid arthritis?

  1. Rita and Misty says:

    Hi Kate,

    Very nice article. Thank you.

    Happy to say that although I live in Connecticut (north enough for me), RA is at least one ailment I do not have!

    I found some interesting info from 2009 regarding Winter- and spring-onset RA patients having worse 6 month outcomes than those with summer onset… I wonder if this has to do with 25(OH)D levels being at their lowest during these months?


    In my opinion, I do believe that science will one day find D to be the master hormone.


  2. jmeshon says:

    Hi Kate. I’ve got an interesting story about Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    I have a niece in her early 20’s with pretty severe RA. Being aware of vitamin D and sunlight’s effect on RA I always found it strange that she had it so severely although she lived in Florida (near Cape Canaveral) and loved to spend time at the beach. She was on heavy medication and but still struggled with the condition.

    A few years ago her Aunt bought a condo in Costa Rica and she started spending time down there. She quickly found that when she was in Costa Rica she didn’t need any medication and is basically asymptomatic. She’s since moved down there and, last I heard, her RA is no longer an issue.

    The point is that we may find that the amount of sunlight or vitamin D needed in some cases may be even more than we think.

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    @jmeshon…I do agree with you…150%

    At the risk of sounding like a renegade…I think that one day D will be recognized as the master hormone of the human body, and mainstream medical will recognize healthy reference levels to be between 50 ng/ml–80 ng/ml; with reference levels for those suffering from illness raised to 80 ng/ml–120 n/ml.

    (obviously, this is just my opinion :) )

    Hope I’m still alive to see my opinion validated.


  4. Just cleared up a case of full-blown Rheumatoid Arthritis in five weeks. Client, age 80, was diagnosed with RA by his GP and Rheumatologist. Client in severe pain with swelling. Trouble dressing, getting out of bed, walking. Pain level 10. Advised to go on Methotrexate and Prednisone. Chose alternative route. Five weeks later is doing 20 minutes on a treadmill. Swelling throughout body 95% gone, energy up and back to normal, pain level from 10 to 0.5. Client decided to take 30,000iu/day of D to raise a low D lab level to 65ng/ml. Client also used fish oil, MSM, Vitamin C, Aloe Vera, Magnesium, Cayenne, and Pregnenolone and zinc. Anti-inflammatory diet with ginger and green tea. Now on a maintenance dose of 10,000iu of D/day. Voila! Patrick Moore, N.D. Thank you, “D!”

  5. Rita and Misty says:

    @Patrick…how awesome…I love this…

    A few questions:

    1. I don’t see CoQ10 on your supplement list?
    2. Why Pregnenolone versus DHEA?

    And perhaps most importantly:

    3. Why not include BORON???

    I am such a big (huge) fan of Boron…and in my opinion (I’ve done some research), it does have curative properties regarding arthritis.



  6. Kate Saley says:

    Very intriguing stories Patrick and Jmeshon. Thanks for sharing! @Jmeshon, that’s very interesting. I’d be interested to know if your niece’s symptoms return or worsen when she visits Florida for any people of time. @Patrick, great news! Glad the patient is doing well.

    And Rita, great find. You may find the attached article interesting: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395583/
    The research suggests a link between month of birth and risk of RA, with a peak in late winter/spring, and dip in the fall.

  7. Rita, I have the highest regard for Co-Enzyme Q-10 and would always suggest it as an adjutant therapy. However, it comes down to a patients budget. Pregnenolone was the non-patentable treatment of choice back in the 1940’s/early 50’s for Rheumatoid Arthritis before Cortisone was discovered. Cortisone works quickly so Pregnenolone was forgotten. Not until later did they realize the awful side effects of cortisone and guess what: it depletes the body of Vitamin D! Pregnenolone is anti-inflammatory, helps to balance all of the other hormones as the “grandma” on the family tree of steroidal hormones and a nice side benefit, it enhances memory and mood. I also use DHEA if it’s a male. Boron is a great mineral found in apples. Very good for the brain – makes the mind work quicker. Boron promotes estrogen production also. Not necessary for a guy in supplement form but apple cider vinegar(organic) would be my choice. If I had to add a nutrient it might be niacinamide. Also, remove any foods that may be causing allergic reactions and attention to nightshade vegetables that may cause flare-ups in some people – peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes. MSM cream works well as a topical and soaking in a bath with 2 cups of epsom salts (magnesium) is another beneficial intervention.

  8. Rita and Misty says:

    Greetings Kate!!

    Thank you for the link to that article. I loved it.


  9. Rita and Misty says:


    I know I’m not a physician…but my hobby is nutritional research…and it is really more like a fanatical passion with me (you probably see my posts and comments here and on the VDC FB page…I do my research 100%)

    I beg to differ with you on two accounts.

    1. Boron is great for increasing testosterone.

    2. DHEA is great for women.

    I am a successful experiment-of-one.
    I take 24 mg Boron daily and 75 mg DHEA daily…and I feel absolutely fantastic.

    :) :) :)
    Life is good!

    Any questions, give me a shout: umileritac@aol.com