The Osteoarthritis and Diet Connection

Before we discuss the link between osteoarthritis and diet would it surprise you to know that osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent form of arthritis and the fastest growing cause of disability worldwide? Prevalence of OA increases with age; 13.9% of adults age 25 and older have clinical OA of at least one joint, while 33.6% of adults age 65 and older have OA. Projections indicate that by 2050 probably 130 million people will suffer with OA!



It is sometimes caused by an injury or an inherited defect in the protein that forms cartilage. More commonly, it is a result of aging, diet and lifestyle. OA occurs when the normal, dynamic equilibrium between the breakdown and repair of joint tissues is overwhelmed. This progressive joint failure may cause pain, physical disability, and psychological distress, although many people with structural changes consistent with OA are asymptomatic, and why this is the case is not known.

Anyone who has suffered with this condition well knows that the hallmark symptom of osteoarthritis is pain. This is the symptom that drives individuals to seek medical attention, and contributes to functional limitations and reduced quality of life. Largely because of pain, lower extremity OA is well-recognized as the leading cause of mobility impairment in older adults in the US.

Also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is a chronic disease causing deterioration of the cartilage protecting the end of the bones in the weight bearing joints of the knees, hips, and spine, but it also commonly affects the hands and knuckles .

Heberden nodes are bony swellings of the distal interphalangeal finger joint.  Bouchard nodes are similar swellings affecting the proximal interphalangeal finger joint.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

The joint pain of OA is typically described as exacerbated by activity and relieved by rest. More advanced OA can cause rest and night pain leading to loss of sleep which further exacerbates pain.

The major symptoms that suggest a diagnosis of OA include:

  • pain (typically described as activity related or mechanical, may occur with rest in advanced disease; often deep, aching and not well localized)

  • reduced function

  • stiffness (of short duration, also termed “gelling” i.e. short-lived stiffness after inactivity or when you get out of bed)

  • joint instability, buckling or giving way

  • patients may also complain of reduced movement, deformity, swelling, crepitus in the absence of systemic features (such as fever)

  • and when pain persists, pain-relate psychological distress

The development of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis has a gradual onset and the sufferer becomes more aware of it after exercise or weight bearing activities, and it's often relieved by rest. The joints become stiff and movement becomes painful and grating.

X-rays will show degenerative changes. The once smooth surface of cartilage becomes rough, resulting in friction. The cartilage begins to break down and the normally smooth sliding surfaces of the bones become pitted and irregular.

The tendons, ligaments and muscles holding the joint together become weaker and the joint becomes deformed, painful and stiff. There is usually some stiffness and pain (more stiffness than pain at first) but little or no swelling.  Any resulting disability is most often minor.

However, fractures become an increasing risk because osteoarthritis makes the bones brittle.

As osteoarthritis advances, bony outgrowths called osteophytes tend to develop. Often referred to as "spurs",  osteophytes can be detected by x-rays and develop near degenerated cartilage in the neck or in the lower back, although this doesn't change a person's appearance.

Osteoarthritis rarely develops before the age of forty, but it affects nearly everyone past the age of sixty. It may be so mild that a person is unaware of it until it appears on an x-ray. Nearly three times as many women as men have osteoarthritis.

Connection between osteoarthritis and diet

Many studies show that among the factors contributing to the condition, diet is a major one, so there is a strong connection between osteoarthritis and diet. The wrong type of diet can lead to the development of several problems that, in turn, have an effect on the health of the joints. These factors are:

It has recently been suggested that obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome can directly influence the development of OA.

Obesity can affect the development of OA in several ways: It increases strain on weight-bearing joints and, as a consequence, overweight and obese individuals are at considerably higher risk of developing OA particularly in the knee. 

An association of higher BMI with the development of hand OA demonstrates an additional non-biomechanical role of obesity in OA.

Also, obesity leads to low-grade systemic inflammation and weight reduction can reduce adipose tissue and restore normal secretion patterns. Leptin, generally elevated in obesity, is produced by white adipose tissue, and is associated with inflammation and cartilage degradation. The picure below summarizes the mechanisms linking obesity to OA pathogenesis.

Obesity is the one modifiable risk factor for OA at least partly due to its association with inflammation. So finding the right diet can help you lose weight, if indeed you are overweight, and can have an impact on all the other risk factors as well.

Many studies prove the link between osteoarthritis and diet, and some are listed below in the References.

But in this website, you will find all the information you need to help you select the best foods that can help you reduce and even revert the symptoms of OA.

You can start with finding out all the foods that can reduce inflammation...

...and here are some supplements that can also help.

Also, see how the right diet can help in the prevention and tretment of diabetes and hypertension.


Articles in the Arthritis Series:

Causes of Arthritis and Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis and Diet

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis


Supplements that support joint health

Joint Support Formula

Delivers a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, horsetail extract, MSM, boron and niacin, alongside manganese, which contributes to the normal formation of connective tissue.

Glucosamine HCl

Delivers 750mg vegetarian Glucosamine Hydrochloride per capsule. It is an important building block for cartilage tissue, a structural component within the skeleton that forms part of the connective tissues in joints between the bones such as the elbows, knees and ankles.

Supplements that support joint health

Joint Support Formula

Delivers a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, horsetail extract, MSM, boron and niacin, alongside manganese, which contributes to the normal formation of connective tissue.


Glucosamine HCl

Delivers 750mg vegetarian Glucosamine Hydrochloride per capsule. It is an important building block for cartilage tissue, a structural component within the skeleton that forms part of the connective tissues in joints between the bones such as the elbows, knees and ankles.





References:

  1. The symptoms of OA and the genesis of pain  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2597216/ by David J. Hunter, MBBS PhD,  Jason J. McDougall, BSc PhD,  and Francis J. Keefe (accessed on 23/03/2021)
  2. The Epidemiology and Impact of Pain in Osteoarthritis  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753584/ by Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, FRCPC  (accessed on 23/03/2021)
  3. What is the evidence for a role for diet and nutrition in osteoarthritis?  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5905611/ by Sally Thomas,  Heather Browne,  Ali Mobasheri,  and Margaret P Rayman (accessed on 23/03/2021)
  4. Can diet improve arthritis symptoms?  https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/can-diet-improve-arthritis-symptoms by Linda Antinoro, R.D., L.D.N., J.D., C.D.E., Brigham and Women's Hospital, a Harvard affiliated hospital (accessed on 23/03/2021)

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Supplements that can help combat inflammation


Antartic Krill Oil

Delivers highly bioavailable and sustainable natural sources of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Evening Primrose Oil

High potency 1000mg Evening Primrose Oil containing 80mg Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) per soft gel suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Aloe Vera Juice

Nutrigold’s Aloe Vera whole leaf juice undergoes careful processing to ensure that the bioactive phytonutrients (including polysaccharides and polyphenols, vitamins and minerals) are maintained to the highest levels and in bioactive forms that can be utilised by the body.

Curcumin/Turmeric

This supplement has specific delivery system that increases absorption of total curcuminoids over standard curcumin by 46-times. This particular delivery format for the curcuminoids achieves a significantly higher level of absorption than traditional food use.

Alka Greens

Alka-Greens is a convenient and easy to blend alkalising greens powder formulation that can be enjoyed by all the family. Every ingredient in Alka-Greens powder is organically certified by the Soil Association. The improved formulation of Alka-Greens contains organic spinach powder instead of pre-sprouted barley so is naturally gluten-free.