TUESDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Menstrual cramps are the bane of many women, but new research suggests that a form of vitamin D may one day be added to the meager list of pain relievers for the sometimes disabling condition.
A small study in Italy found that a single, high dose of cholecalciferol -- also known as vitamin D3 -- was linked to a marked reduction in menstrual cramps, with the largest benefits observed in women reporting the most pain at the beginning of the study.
U.S. experts cautioned that it's too early to recommend vitamin D3 to those experiencing cramps -- estimated to occur in at least half of all reproductive-age women -- because the study didn't delve into possible long-term risks of taking high doses.
"It's provocative in the fact that the results are pretty amazing," said Dr. Robert Graham, an internist and vitamin D expert at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "But the dose [given] is a lot more than conventionally given for any condition."
The study was published Feb. 27 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the study, 40 Italian women were split into two groups: one receiving a single oral dose of 300,000 IUs of vitamin D3 and the other getting a placebo five days before the expected start of their menstrual periods.
After two months, average pain scores dropped 41 percent for women assigned vitamin D treatment, while no difference in pain was reported in the placebo group.
Also, the women who took vitamin D reported no need to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as the pain reliever ibuprofen, to manage their pain in the two-month study period, while 40 percent of those assigned to placebo reported using an NSAID at least once.
Menstrual cramps, known by the medical name dysmenorrhea, typically begin just before or at the start of a woman's menstrual period and can last several day
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