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What Foods to Eat for: Osteoarthritis

Culinary guidance to aid your bones and joints

woman tea

What it is: Osteoarthritis (“wear-and-tear arthritis”), the most common type in the United States, is a painful degenerative condition that occurs when cartilage (which cushions bone joints) becomes cracked and pitted.

You are at increased risk if you are:

  • are obese
  • have a family history of osteoarthritis
  • have had an injury to a joint
  • have a hormonal disorder
  • have osteoporosis

Foods to increase:

  • Dairy foods. A Turkish study showed that people with osteoarthritis who drink the most milk have a decreased frequency of symptoms.

  • Tea. It has also bee shown to decrease the frequency of osteoarthritis, perhaps because of its anti-inflammatory compounds.

  • Foods rich in vitamin C. People who eat the most foods rich in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits) have 70 percent less cartilage loss than those who eat the least and a threefold reduction in the progression of the disease.

  • Avocado and soybeans. Their oils have both been found to be extremely effective in reducing the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in people with osteoarthritis. The oils appear to stimulate collagen production and slow cartilage breakdown.

  • Ginger. In a six-week study, its extract reduced the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee: ginger is a known anti-inflammatory.

  • Fish oils. They may lubricate joints in people with osteoarthritis (or even prevent the condition) by keeping the joints lubricated.

Foods to avoid:

  • Red meat, especially processed red meat such as sausage and hamburger. It has been shown to cause a higher risk of degenerative arthritis. In a study of people with moderate-to-severe knee osteoarthritis, those who eliminated red meat had the fewest painful attacks over a six- and 12-week period, regardless of weight loss. Red meats are typically high in saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids, which are inflammatory.

  • Sugary and starchy foods. In the same study, people who limited their intake of processed baked goods had less pain after six and 12 weeks than those who did not.

Water-cooler fact: It is estimated that 80 percent of the population will have osteoarthritis by the age of 65, although almost half of those people will not have any symptoms.

Excerpted from:
 by John La Puma, M.D.
© 2009, Crown.




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