Inflammatory Diet Associated with Earlier Death in Osteoarthritis Patients

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More than half of North American adults over 65 years of age suffer from osteoarthritis, and recent studies show that inflammation is involved (Curr Opin Rheumatol, 2023 Mar 1;35(2):128-134). An inflammatory diet can increase joint damage (Adv Nutr, 2020;11:815–833) as well as diabetes and premature death (Nutr J, 2021;20:24). A study of 3804 patients with osteoarthritis found that patients who ate a high-inflammatory diet died at a significantly younger age than those who ate an anti-inflammatory diet (BMC Musculoskelet Disord, May 23, 2024;25(1):407). The authors measured inflammation by using the blood test IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, TNF-α and CRP (Public Health Nutr, 2014;17:1689–1696).

Anti-Inflammatory and Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Pro-inflammatory foods include sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, sugar-added foods, honey, refined cereals, red meat, processed meat, butter, lard, mayonnaise and margarine.
Anti-inflammatory foods include vegetables (except for potatoes), fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, whole unground grains, and no-calorie beverages including tea and coffee.

What is Inflammation?
Your immune system is supposed to be good for you because it produces cells, cytokines and antibodies that try to kill the germs that invade your body. However, after the germs are gone, your immune system is supposed to slow down. If your immune system remains active, it can use the same chemicals and cells that attack germs to attack any part of your body, and that includes destroying the synovial coverings and cartilage in your joints.

My Recommendations
Everything you can do to reduce inflammation will help you to combat the pain of osteoarthritis:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. I recommend Intermittent Fasting.
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Keep blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 30 ng/mL.
  • Exercise and keep moving, but be guided by pain and stop immediately when the pain increases or does not go away when you slow down.
  • Avoid sports that involve impact. Since the force of your foot hitting the ground can break off cartilage, do not run, jump or participate in exercise that involves impact of your feet hitting the ground. You can cycle since your feet never leave the pedals, so pedaling is not an impact sport. Swimming is also a good non-impact sport.
  • Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as needed to control pain, but realize that they do nothing to cure the problem. Take the lowest dose possible to relieve pain.
  • If you have sudden locking of a joint and it gets better but then recurs, you may have “joint mice”, loose pieces of cartilage that slip between the cartilage to cause horrible pain. Your doctor can usually fix this by removing the loose pieces by arthroscopy.
  • If knee pain becomes so unbearable that it keeps you awake at night, you may want to consider a Total Knee Replacement