To determine whether the development of osteoarthritis (OA) in men over a 33-year period is related to lower sulfate levels in stored serum collected during that time interval.
Stored serum samples from participants in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study were assayed for sulfate by ion-exchange chromatography. Samples had been obtained every 3–5 years during part or all of a 33-year portion of the study. Sulfate levels were determined in serum from all participants who underwent knee replacement surgery and had evidence of radiographic hand OA, from some of the participants who had evidence of radiographic hand OA but had not undergone knee replacement surgery, from all participants who underwent knee replacement surgery but had no evidence of radiographic hand OA, and from age-matched participants who had no evidence of OA by history, physical examination, or hand radiography.
Serum sulfate levels in participants, with or without radiographic hand OA and/or knee replacements, who were ages 34–72 years at the first examination, ranged from 0.21 mM to 0.51 mM over the course of a maximum of 33 years. Both the overall mean and median sulfate levels rose from 0.32 mM at age 40–50 years to 0.38 mM at age 70–80 years, and the overall mean and median for all ages was 0.36 mM. There were no significant differences in sulfate levels between subjects in any of the 4 groups.
There was no evidence of a relationship between these serum sulfate levels and the development of OA. However, all samples were collected after overnight fasting, and no participant was younger than age 34 years at the initiation of the study. It remains to be determined whether differences in the time of ingestion of daily dietary protein providing sulfate are related to the development of OA, or whether sulfate levels measured at an earlier age could be a factor.