Osteoarthritis and Diet
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the breakdown and inflammation of joint cartilage, usually brought on by aging and repetitive joint usage. Osteoarthritis also is known as degenerative arthritis.
What treatments are available?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil® or Motrin®, often are recommended. Some new prescription drugs are becoming available that seem to treat the pain of arthritis as effectively as NSAIDs, but without as many of the undesirable side effects. Sometimes physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, and surgery also are recommended.
What about exercise?
Swimming, flexibility exercises, and some weight-bearing exercises help to moderate the pain in some people. Correct form is extremely important. Repetitive, high-impact movements are not recommended.
What about my diet?
Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if a patient is overweight is the main dietary treatment for osteoarthritis. Weight loss helps alleviate some of the pain of arthritis and makes daily activities easier.
Some studies link vitamin D to osteoarthritis. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with more rapid progression of osteoarthritis.
Vitamin D is found in:
- Fish-liver oil
- Egg yolks
- Fortified cow’s milk
- Fortified dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt
- Fortified cereals
Studies have linked vitamin C with osteoarthritis risk. Vitamin C is important for building cartilage.
Vitamin C can be found in:
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomato juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Red bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Would any other diet tips help?
Nutrition and osteoarthritis treatment is highly controversial. Many diet books and “magic pills” are promoted as useful for treating osteoarthritis symptoms, but few are backed up with strong scientific evidence. However, some studies have shown benefits from certain nutritional and herbal supplementations.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are proven in numerous studies to help ease joint pain and improve movement, although results are not conclusive.
References and recommended readings
Gomez FE, Kaufer-Horwitz M. Medical nutrition therapy for rheumatic disease. In: Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:901-922.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Handout on health: osteoarthritis.
Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Osteoarthritis/default.asp. Accessed August 8, 2011.
Review Date 1/12