. Some elements of the Mediterranean diet are useful in the fight against arthritis
. Fish, grains and berries are foods you should look to incorporate into your diet
. Use discretion in regards to alcohol when trying to manage arthritis
When constructing a diet to counteract and reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis there are certain foods you should peruse and certain foods you should avoid. Foods you should actively look to incorporate into your diet are fish, grains and berries. Foods you should look to avoid are fats, sugar and salt.
Fish, fruits and berries are all good for reducing inflammation which is one of the keys to managing arthritis. You want to avoid foods that inflame the condition and eat foods that actively reduce inflammation.
The food you eat can certainly play a role in how you feel and manage the ailment. In this health study on diet and arthritis, ‘Twenty-four percent of subjects reported that foods affect their RA, with 15% reporting improvement and 19% worsening. Blueberries and spinach were the foods most often reported to improve RA symptoms, while soda with sugar and desserts were most often reported to worsen RA symptoms.’
In terms of structuring a diet to combat the symptoms of arthritis, over the years some have advocated the use of the Mediterranean diet, which embodies a more traditional way of living that was common in that part of the world. Excess sugar is avoided, meat is eaten sparingly and the focus is on food sourced from the earth such as plant foods, fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood. For flavour, meals are often cooked in olive oil and topped up with red wine.
Advocates of the Mediterranean diet certainly love the freshness and vibrancy of the food but in terms of reducing arthritis the medical information available is varied. This journal looked at four studies that had incorporated Mediterranean elements and found that ‘Only one study reported a reduction in the 28 joint count disease activity score for rheumatoid arthritis for the Mediterranean diet group. This review has identified beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet in reducing pain and increasing physical function in people living with rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to support widespread recommendation of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.’
We talked about olive oil being a staple of the Mediterranean diet and this study suggests it has a positive impact. It states that ‘Studies have also shown that incorporation of olive oil in diet decreases the risk of developing RA. Rosillo et al. have shown that administration of extra virgin olive oil in CIA mice (type II collagen-induced arthritis) reduced the serum levels of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) that are the predictive markers of cartilage and joint damage in RA.’
I think what’s safe to say is that there are certainly elements of the Mediterranean diet that can help manage and prevent arthritis but you also need to look at other options at your disposal. Wine is often considered a staple in cultures in that part of the world, where social drinking at social gatherings are considered a part and parcel of life, but what affect does that have on managing arthritis? Again, the studies are varied and a matter of interpretation, but as a general rule, it’s generally accepted that excessive alcohol can be detrimental to those already suffering from arthritis. It can potentially inflame the condition.
But if you drink in moderation, it might not be all bad. You have to find the right balance. In regards to red wine there might be some good news as according the Arthritis foundation ‘Red wine has a compound in it called resveratrol, which has well-established anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show wine consumption is associated with a reduced risk of knee OA, and moderate drinking is also associated with a reduced risk of RA.’
But it goes on to say that ‘many experts question the strength of these studies and argue it’s hard to distinguish confounding factors in this research.’ However, another study looked at the impact of resveratrol on arthritis and stated ‘This study suggests that intra-articular injection of resveratrol may protect cartilage against the development of experimentally induced IA,’ which is also backed up by this study that states ‘resveratrol administered either intra-articularly or orally, has shown joint protective effects in pre-clinical models of OA and RA.’
A different study looked at the correlation between alcohol and arthritis and found that ‘Beer consumption appears to be a risk factor for knee and hip OA whereas consumption of wine has a negative association with knee OA. The mechanism behind these findings is speculative but warrants further study.’
So there is certainly a mixed bag in regards to the scientific backing of the virtues of red wine, but if you are going to incorporate it into your diet, it’s best to tread lightly and do so gently and moderately, but the Mediterranean diet as a whole, while not perfect, certainly has some elements to it that make it an attractive option in the battle against arthritis.
NCBI: Diet and Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: Survey results from a Rheumatoid arthritis registry
NCBI: The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies
NCBI: Managing Rheumatoid arthritis with dietary interventions
NCBI: Effects of resveratrol in inflammatory arthritis
NCBI: Resveratrol, potential therapeutic interest in joint disorders: A critical narrative review
NCBI: Beer and wine consumption and risk of knee or hip osteoarthritis: a case study