Lose weight and eat healthily to feel better – but don’t expect diet to “cure” your arthritis. That’s the message from the Arthritis Research Campaign at the start of its awareness campaign Diet and Arthritis – Food Facts and Fallacies.
“People with arthritis desperately want to help themselves by finding a diet that suits them but there is simply no quick fix, miracle diet that will cure arthritis,” warns Fergus Logan, chief executive at the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC).
“If there was, we would be shouting it from the roof-tops. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and at least two portions of oily fish a week is beneficial, but our common-sense advice is that people should expect minor improvements rather than a miracle.”
The UK charity is warning people against unrealistic expectations they might have about diet and arthritis. “A lot of excessive claims are made in the media and in magazines and books about the latest wonder food or fad but there is very little real evidence to back them up,” added Mr. Logan.
“Lots of people tell us how a particular diet or cutting out certain foods –such as cutting out red wine, sugar and chocolate, eating gin and prunes for example – has helped their arthritis. The problem is that what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. And we need to take into account the power of the placebo – mind over matter.”
One vital way in which people with arthritis can help themselves is to lose weight if they are overweight, as excess heaviness puts undue strain on weight-bearing joints and is a major risk factor for developing osteoarthritis of the knee. According to experts, around a quarter of all cases of knee osteoarthritis might be prevented if obesity was eliminated. The ARC is funding a major clinical trial in Nottingham to establish that a combination of weight loss and exercise could help reduce knee pain in overweight people.
“As well as losing weight, people with arthritis should reduce the amount of sugar and fat in their diet, eat more fruit and vegetables, take plenty of calcium and iron-enriched food, and try replacing meat with oily fish,” said Mr. Logan.” It might not be headline-grabbing stuff, but at least these recommendations are based on evidence-based research, and therefore should actually help.
Food Facts and Fallacies – separating fact from fiction
• Losing weight if you are overweight by changing your eating and lifestyle habits should help relieve pain, particularly in osteoarthritis of the knee. It’s estimated that a quarter of all cases of osteoarthritis of the knee could be prevented by eliminating obesity. Losing weight may also mean you can reduce the number of painkillers you take.
• Eating oily fish such as herring, sardines, kippers, mackerel, pilchards and tuna twice a week or taking cod liver oil daily should help reduce arthritic pain. Oily fish and cod-liver oil contain Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which have been proven to have a mild anti-inflammatory effect on osteoarthritis.
• Cutting out certain foods as part of a rigorously observed elimination diet under strict medical supervision can help relieve symptoms in some people with rheumatoid arthritis but NOT osteoarthritis.
• Eating oily fish, liver and kidneys is likely to exacerbate gout.
• Acidic food such as citrus fruits can cause arthritis. There is no evidence for this.
• Tomatoes, aubergines and red peppers can cause arthritis. There is no evidence of this. Tomatoes can contain beneficial antioxidants such as Vitamin C.
• Green-lipped mussels, cider vinegar, selenium ACE, molasses, CMO and seaweed can significantly affect people with arthritis. There is no evidence to prove that they work, although they appear to help some people due to placebo effect (mind over matter).
• You can test for possible food allergies through methods such as applied kinesiology, dowsing, vega testing or cytoxic testing. None of these methods are reliable.