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Fibre-rich foods 'may help protect against joint diseases and improve bone health'

Published on 22 January 2018
Fibre-rich foods 'may help protect against joint diseases and improve bone health'

People eating a diet featuring plenty of fibre-rich foods such as muesli may experience better bone health and a lower risk of autoimmune diseases.

This is according to a new study from Germany's Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, which has shed light on how a healthy diet rich in fibre can alter the behaviour of intestinal bacteria in a way that has a positive impact on chronic inflammatory joint diseases.

How does fibre-rich food improve bone health?

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study looked at mice to examine the effect that diet has on the composition of intestinal bacteria, which aid digestion by breaking fibre down into its individual components to be absorbed by the body.

It is also known that this process creates short-chain fatty acids that stimulate intestinal movements and deliver an anti-inflammatory effect. This new research indicated that eating more fibre changes intestinal bacteria in such a way that more of these fatty acids are formed in key areas such as the bone marrow, resulting in a reduction in the number of bone-degrading cells.

Potential implications

As such, sticking to a bacteria-friendly diet could potentially deliver significant anti-inflammatory effects and a positive impact on bone density, hopefully reducing the risk of being affected by painful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

Study leader Dr Mario Zaiss said: "Our findings offer a promising approach for developing innovative therapies for inflammatory joint diseases, as well as for treating osteoporosis, which is often suffered by women after the menopause.

"We are not able to give any specific recommendations for a bacteria-friendly diet at the moment, but eating muesli every morning, as well as enough fruit and vegetables throughout the day, helps to maintain a rich variety of bacterial species."

Arthritis Research UK's view

Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: "We know that, for millions of people living with arthritis in the UK, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can help manage their pain and stiffness. This research supports our advice that a balanced diet of food containing sources of fibre can improve symptoms of arthritis by helping to maintain a healthy weight, and now also possibly through effects on bone cells. It also builds on our understanding of the role the bacteria in our gut might play in arthritis.

"Arthritis can make things we take for granted - such as getting out of bed, dressing and getting to work - extremely difficult. We are determined to help people break free from the limits of arthritis. This is why we are also funding new research to explore how understanding the bacteria in the gut could open new doors for ways of treating or even preventing arthritis."

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