According to the American College of Rheumatology, more than 27 million Americans over age 25 suffer from osteoarthritis.

New research indicates arthritis is one type of chronic inflammatory disease that may be addressed by increasing one’s vitamin D levels.

“Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, arthritis and prostate cancer, who are vitamin D deficient, may benefit from vitamin D supplementation,” said the study’s lead author, Elena Goleva, assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health.

Researchers at National Jewish Health discovered specific molecular and signaling events by which vitamin D inhibits inflammation.

Vitamin D has long been known to contribute to bone health by promoting the absorption of calcium. In recent years, much attention has been paid to its possible immune and inflammatory benefits. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with several diseases including asthma, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.

In their experiments, the investigators showed that low levels of Vitamin D, comparable to levels found in millions of people, failed to inhibit the inflammatory cascade, while levels considered adequate did inhibit inflammatory signaling.

The results of the new study were published in the March 1, 2011, issue of The Journal of Immunology.