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Is there any links between osteoarthritis and diet?

Q) I would like to know whether any research findings suggest links between osteoarthritis and diet. I am a 66-year-old active retired teacher. I had a total hip replacement in August 2011 and have recovered well. My surgeon has told me that it is likely I will require another hip replacement on the other hip in about five years although at present I am not experiencing any hip pain. I hope that exercise, weight control and sensible eating plus supplements such as glucosamine and fish oil will help to slow the progression of the disease. What does the latest medical research say about nutritional therapy (such as that in Marguerite Patten's 'Eat to beat arthritis') which claims that avoidance of specific foods that cause food sensitivities can relieve the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis? To put it simply, can food heal me?
Janet, Crook (Winter 2013)

A) Despite much interest and research in this subject there is little evidence that diet can cause arthritis and the converse that avoidance of certain foods can cure it. Some food supplements will help the pain, and these include fish oils, although there is still debate on the usefulness of glucosamine. An absolute minority of people may have arthritis as a result of an allergy, and food avoidance can help in these cases, but identifying the foods is a long, drawn-out process. Some years ago there was interest in dietary therapy when it was found that starvation could help inflammation in joints but this was found to be a specific effect of calorie withdrawal on the immune system and not food hypersensitivity. An ad hoc survey in our clinic found that the majority of people had tried some form of dietary manipulation, and many had lost weight, sometimes drastically, but rarely to their long-term benefit. So my advice is to eat a healthy balanced diet and to keep your weight within acceptable limits.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Winter 2013 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to enquiries@arthritisresearchuk.org


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