Monday, September 25, 2006
Mediterranean Diet for Arthritis
A Swedish study suggests the "Mediterranean diet," already believed to help prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer, may also reduce the pain and swelling of joints stricken with rheumatoid arthritis. Significant improvement was reported by most of the 26 arthritic patients who followed the well-studied dietary regimen for three months. The Mediterranean diet includes olive oil as the primary dietary sources of fat, along with plenty of fish, poultry, produce, and legumes, say Swedish researchers. By comparison, no relief was reported by another group of 25 patients who followed a typical Western diet.
Their finding, published in the March 2003 issue of Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, is the latest to suggest arthritis relief may result from this eating plan, which is typical on Crete and other Greek islands. Just over five years ago, University of Buffalo researchers found that mice fed high doses of fish oil and vitamin E, abundant in the two oils studied by the Swedish investigators. The results were reduced levels of a specific protein that causes joint swelling and pain. Just a few months earlier, Greek investigators found that a similar Mediterranean diet reduced the onset of rheumatoid arthritis by nearly three-fold compared with those who ate less olive oil and fewer fruits and vegetables.
In addition to being good sources of heart-healthy fats, olive oil is rich in oleic acid and vitamin E. Like vitamin E, oleic acid has an anti-inflammatory effect and is thought to reduce inflammatory protein levels. The fish eaten by these study participants didn't have the same high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and others associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and other conditions. The nutrients in these oils may have a similar anti-inflammatory effect. Like produce, they're also good sources of other antioxidant phytochemicals believed to reduce inflammation and inhibit tissue damage.
"The results of this intervention program indicate that a Cretan Mediterranean diet suppresses disease activity in patients who have stable and modestly active rheumatoid arthritis," write the researchers. "Thus, by eating a Mediterranean diet for three months, patients with RA can obtain better physical function and increase their activity." What more needs to be said if you want to achieve relief from inflammation without medications?
Thomas Von Ohlen, MS