July 19, 2011
Jamila Anderson, a 35-year-old singer from Queens, was sick of taking a cocktail of drugs to control her lupus.
Several months ago, she opted to join an experiment probing whether Vitamin D has a similar power to manage the autoimmune disease she has battled for 20 years.
"I'm excited to see if it's helpful," said Anderson, whose condition has at times left her hospitalized with 105-degree fevers and too limp to leave the house.
The trial, spearheaded by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, L.I., is testing whether lupus patients plied with the so-called sunshine vitamin have fewer flareups than those on a placebo.
"If you look at lupus patients, there is a profound deficiency of Vitamin D. We began to think about what would happen if we increased Vitamin D levels," said Cynthia Aranow, a rheumatologist leading the trial.
The hope is the Vitamin D doses stop or slow down the part of the body that can overactivate the immune system and trigger lupus troubles, which include joint pain, fatigue or fever. Or, as Aranow explains, "Are there ways of lowering what drives lupus?"
Doctors say it's not surprising researchers are studying Vitamin D's impact on lupus, which affects up to 1 million Americans.
"There are many claims that Vitamin D cures almost everything. The fact is that Vitamin D is necessary for the immune system to function properly," said Len Horovitz, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.
Indeed, just last week, a Vitamin D deficiency was blamed for the death of Mozart and given as a possible reason for why some New York Giants were sidelined with injuries. Nearly 81% of the football players surveyed were low on Vitamin D - especially those with muscle injuries.
It's too soon to say whether Vitamin D helps lupus sufferers, Aranow said. The trial of 57 patients at eight sites nationwide wrapped up in April. The group was split into thirds: those fed 2,000 international units of Vitamin D daily for three months, those fed 4,000 IUs of the vitamin and those swallowing a placebo.