Can diet help prevent arthritis?


Adam’s journal

With my 51st birthday about to descend on me, I’ve noticed a certain creakiness in my knees and lower-leg joints, especially when I first awaken. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t qualify as full-blown arthritis, but I’ve been thinking about what steps I could take going forward to minimize the risk of developing arthritis.

I know that staying active and controlling weight are key, but I’m especially curious about the role of diet in arthritis. When it comes to joint health, are there particular foods I should be eating or avoiding?


Dr. Prescott prescribes


I’m going to assume we’re talking about osteoarthritis, which is common in aging populations. It affects an estimated 50 million or more Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Researchers increasingly believe that arthritis results from a body-wide increase in inflammation. Research has linked a number of foods to inflammation, including alcohol, saturated and trans fats, sugar and refined carbohydrates.

These findings, especially those on sugar and carbs, are consistent with research that Tim Griffin, Ph.D., has done in mice at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He observed that when the rodents ate a diet rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars, their chances of developing arthritic knees shot up. The risk was greater than that shown in mice who weighed the same yet consumed a diet with fewer refined carbs and sugars.

Next, Dr. Griffin plans to investigate the role dietary fiber plays in arthritis. Already, a pair of long-term observational studies in people found that as fiber intake increased, the prevalence of arthritis decreased. The study leaders hypothesized that in addition to reducing weight, the added dietary fiber controlled inflammation in the body.

Vegetables in the nightshade family — tomatoes, eggplants, red bell peppers — have long been said to contribute to arthritis. However, no solid research has demonstrated this.

Some studies have linked low levels of vitamin D with arthritis. Only a few foods are rich in vitamin D, though, so supplements are typically the most effective way to boost the body’s levels.

When it comes to how diet affects individuals, the best approach can be to conduct our own experiments. Try changing one thing at a time; that way, you’ll know what’s working — and what’s not.

So, go ahead and cut your sugars. Take a vitamin D supplement. Add fiber. If you find something that makes you feel better, stick with it!

Prescott, a physician and medical researcher, is president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Cohen is a marathoner and OMRF’s senior vice president and general counsel.

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