A new UK study has revealed how making simple dietary changes and exercising could help to relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Surrey, the new analysis is the largest and most up to date of its kind. The team looked at 68 studies to assess the relationship between nutrition and the risk or progression of osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis in the world.Eighteen percent of women and 9.6 percent of men aged 60 years and over are known to have been diagnosed with the condition, although many think the true number of those affected may in fact be much higher.
There is currently no effective treatment for the painful condition and no known cure, and sufferers are able to use only painkillers to treat symptoms.
However, the new research has revealed that making certain diet and lifestyle changes could also help those afflicted by osteoarthritis.
One of the key findings from the analysis is that taking a supplement of one gram of fish oil a day could help reduce patients' pain, thanks to the essential fatty acids found in the oil which reduces inflammation in joints. The team also found that the supplement could help improve cardiovascular health.
Adding foods rich in vitamin K to the diet, such as kale, spinach and parsley, was also found to be beneficial. As the vitamin is needed for vitamin-K-dependent (VKD) proteins which are found in bone and cartilage, a sufficient intake can help promote bone growth and repair, and decrease the risk of osteoarthritis.
In addition to diet, the analysis also showed that weight loss eased symptoms in those who were overweight or obese. Obesity increases strain on joints and can cause low-grade, systemic inflammation in the body, both of which worsen the condition.
The team found that reducing calorie intake and introducing a combination of strengthening, flexibility and aerobic exercises was an effective way to reduce pain in overweight patients.
Making lifestyle changes can also benefit all sufferers with osteoarthritis as a healthier lifestyle helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, with high blood cholesterol known to be associated with the condition.
"A combination of good diet and regular exercise are necessary to keep joints healthy; you can't have healthy joints with just one, you need both," said study co-author Ali Mobasheri.
"Lifestyle should also be considered when attempting to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis. Patients can't expect miracles with dietary interventions if they are overweight and drink or smoke heavily. Evidence shows that smoking and heavy drinking negatively affects body energy metabolism and inflammatory markers in the liver which may promote inflammation and disease in the body," continued Mobasheri.
The results can be found online in the journal Rheumatology.