Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers may experience some improvement by adopting a vegetarian diet, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. The 13-month study of 44 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis found that those on vegetarian regimens experienced fewer arthritis symptoms than the volunteers whose diet contained meat and other animal products.
One explanation stems from the fact that vegetarian diets contain different types of fats from those found in diets that include animal products. While it’s true that the bulk of the fat in our bodies is used as a source of energy or to store energy, a small amount of fat goes to form powerful hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins or PGs.
There are several different families of PGs, each causing the body to behave in different ways. Where arthritis is concerned, some PGs can encourage inflammation while others will not. The type of fat we eat is one the factors that determines how much of each type of PG the body makes.
Previous research has found that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil as well as borage seed oil, evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil, are able to decrease the painful symptoms of arthritis. Theoretically, the body turns them into PGs that don’t encourage inflammation. By contrast, animal products and the omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable oils turn into PGs that promote inflammation.
A 1996 study in the journal Epidemiology found that regular intake of high omega-3 fish, such as salmon, mackerel, brook trout, bluefish or herring, reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. (Fried food, incidentally, was associated with a higher risk.)
A study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases reported that vitamin E may alleviate some of the stiffness experienced by arthritis sufferers. Those taking 600 mg of vitamin E twice a day for twelve weeks reportedly had a major reduction in pain.
A study in the Journal of Rheumatology found that supplements of N-acetyl-L-cysteine were helpful in relieving some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
The claim that arthritis is caused by a food allergy is controversial. This being said though, it’s best to maintain a journal, charting any changes in symptoms alongside the day’s activities and the foods you eat. Discuss any suspect patterns with your allergist.
The Arthritis Foundation, which originally stated that it “cannot recommend” glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate as treatment, has backed off the strength of that statement. In a more recent press release, it calls the initial data on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate “promising,” but that it “cannot formulate a definite recommendation” until more substantial studies are done.
See also: Arthritis and the Mediterranean Diet
Foods that can Cause Arthritis