This is a brief overview of how vitamin E can be used as an osteoarthritis treatment. Vitamin E is used to describe a group of eight fat-soluble substances. These compounds include tocopherols and tocotrienols.  Tocopherols are the most commonly consumed form of vitamin E in western diets. As fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E is most active in cell membranes, acting as free radical scavengers.

Free radicals are compounds released that can cause cell damage. Thus, vitamin E is important for protecting the body from oxidative stress as part of osteoarthritis treatment. However, animal studies have shown that deposits of fat and cholesterol particles in blood vessels counteract the positive effects of vitamin E[1].

Vitamin E-rich foods include vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower and corn oil. Fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon are also rich in vitamin E. Another good source of vitamin E is fruit, particularly currants, mangos and avocados. Adults need approximately 12mg of vitamin E daily. However, many people do not meet this minimum requirement in their diet.

Vitamin E and its Role in Osteoarthritis Treatment

Vitamin E foods for osteoarthritis treatmentA 2009 study in Thailand measured the concentrations of various antioxidants in the synovial fluid of patients with osteoarthritis[2]. The synovial fluid of osteoarthritis patients was compared with the synovial fluid of patients with injured knee joints. Vitamin E concentration was measured using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Sutipornpalangkul and colleagues found that vitamin E concentrations were significantly lower in the synovial fluid of osteoarthritis patients compared with that of injured knee joint patients. The researchers concluded that vitamin E deficiency promotes oxidative processes in the knee and accelerates osteoarthritis. Thus, Sutipornpalangkul and colleagues concluded that using vitamin E as an osteoarthritis treatment may have a positive impact in protecting cartilage from further destruction.

Free Radicals Damage Articular Cartilage

Free radicals attack the cartilage cells and destroy their structure. As a result, the joint cartilage is progressively reduced and irretrievably lost. Since vitamins are very important free radical scavengers, vitamin E may play an important role in the osteoarthritis treatment.

In 2009, Haflah and colleagues published their findings into the effects of vitamin E from palm oil on the symptoms of osteoarthritis patients[3]. For comparison, a second group of subjects were given glucosamine sulphate.

A total of 79 participants were given either 400mg of vitamin E or 1.5g of glucosamine sulphate over a period of 6 months. The application of both substances reduced the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Although the exact actions of vitamin E were not determined, the results are nevertheless positive. Researchers need to conduct further studies before more accurate statements can be made regarding the effect of vitamin E as an osteoarthritis treatment.

Vitamin E Slows Osteoarthritis

In 2012, another study was published investigating the effects of free radicals on cartilage degradation and the benefits of antioxidants such as vitamin E[4]. Bhattacharya and colleagues found that free radical activity correlated with progressive osteoarthritis. However, under the influence of vitamin E, this process was significantly slowed.

The status of various antioxidant enzymes and inflammatory markers were investigated in 40 healthy volunteers and 40 patients with osteoarthritis. The data was collected at the start of the study and three months later after a daily dose vitamin E.

The researchers found that vitamin E reduced inflammation in the joints and increased antioxidant potential. Consequently, free radicals exerted less influence on the joint. However, further studies are needed to investigate the exact effects of vitamin E and the mechanisms involved.

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Vitamin E is an import antioxidant that can decrease the activity of free radicals. This can help to reduce the damaging effects of oxidative stress on joint cartilage. Since vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory properties, it may have an important role to play in the natural treatment of osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, many people don’t consume enough vitamin E in their diet. More research is necessary to determine the full extent of the mechanisms associated with vitamin E and osteoarthritis.


[1] Ozkanlar & Akcay. 2012. Antioxidant vitamins in atherosclerosis – animal experiments and clinical studies. Adv Clin Exp Med 21(1), 115-23

[2] Sutipornpalangkul et al., 2009. Lipid peroxidation, glutathione, vitamin E, and antioxidant enzymes in synovial fluid from patients with osteoarthritis. Int J Rheum Dis 12 (4), 324-8

[3] Haflah et al., 2009. Palm vitamin E and glucosamine sulphate in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Saudi Med J 30 (11), 1432-1438

[4] Bhattacharya et al., 2012. Efficacy of vitamin E in the management of knee osteoarthritis North Indian geriatric population. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis 4 (1), 11-9