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Rheumatoid Arthritis: NHS on common signs and symptoms

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Arthritis is one of the most common conditions in the UK, affecting more than 10 million people. Studies have consistently highlighted the importance of lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms, with diet playing an invaluable protective role against the condition.

A low-fat vegan diet, without having to have major calorie restrictions, improves joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Other major health benefits noted from the study found that participants also experienced weight loss and improved cholesterol levels.

“A plant-based diet could be the prescription to alleviate joint pain for millions of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, can ibuprofen 500 mg get you high ” says Doctor Neal Barnard, lead author of the study and president of the Physicians Committee.

He added how the only side effects found by adopting this diet included weight loss and lowered cholesterol which are of course “only beneficial”.

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The study was published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine and was a randomised crossover trial investigating nutritional intervention for rheumatoid arthritis.

The research included 44 adults previously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to a diet phase (vegan diet for four weeks, elimination of additional foods for three weeks, and then reintroduction of the eliminated foods individually over nine weeks) or a supplement (placebo) phase for 16 weeks.

The first group followed a vegan diet for four weeks, with the elimination of additional foods for three weeks, then reintroduction of the eliminated foods individually over nine weeks.

The second group followed an unrestricted diet but were asked to take a daily placebo capsule, which had no effect in the study. Then the groups switched diets for 16 weeks.

During the vegan phase of the study, Disease Activity Score-28 (DAS28) decreased two points on average, indicating a greater reduction in joint pain, compared to a decrease of 0.3 points in the placebo phase.

The Disease Activity Score-28 calculates swollen joints, and C-reactive protein values, which indicate inflammation in the body.

DAS28 increases with rheumatoid arthritis severity.

The researchers found that the vegan diet also led to greater decreases in DAS28 in a sub analysis that excluded individuals who increased medications during the study and another sub analysis limited to participants making no medication changes.

In addition to reductions in pain and swelling, body weight decreased by about 14 pounds on average on the vegan diet, compared with a gain of about 2 pounds on the placebo diet.

There were also greater reductions in total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol during the vegan phase.

The study concluded that a dietary intervention of a vegan diet “was associated with symptomatic improvements”.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK, occurs when the tissue between the joints becomes worn.

“Osteoarthritis is the most common type in the UK, affecting nine million people alone. It is also most common in women and people with a family history of the condition,” says the NHS.

“But it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout of rheumatoid arthritis.

“Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes the movement more difficult, leading to pain and stiffness.”

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