Diet & Osteoarthritis
Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
For centuries, we humans have considered that our health is influenced by what we eat. Let's face it, if you eat a taco with hot sauce and have diarrhea followed by anal burning the next morning, the food affected your body!
The concept that diet can, in any way, affect osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) is being evaluated by researchers. Keep in mind that this field is just developing and few hard conclusions can be reached. Here is the latest:
- Obesity increases the risk for developing
osteoarthritis. Overweight people might reduce their chances for developing
or aggravating their osteoarthritis by losing weight. Furthermore, if a person
already has substantial osteoarthritis in a weight-bearing joint, such as a
knee or hip, weight reduction can significantly improve their ability to
rehabilitate after joint surgery as well as decrease their risk of surgical
- Vitamin C is important in the development of normal
cartilage. A deficiency of vitamin C might lead to the development of weak
cartilage. Vitamin C is commonly available in citrus fruits. Supplementation
with a vitamin C tablet may be advised if dietary fruits are unavailable.
- People with low bone mineral density, such as in
osteoporosis, may be at increased risk for osteoarthritis. Exercise and
adequate calcium intake, as recommended for age and gender, can help to
maintain bone density.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase the
risk of joint space narrowing and progression of disease in osteoarthritis.
Many doctors are recommending vitamin D supplementation of 400 IU daily. This
can also help to prevent osteoporosis.
- For some years now, there have been studies originally
conducted in Europe and more recently in the United States that have suggested
that the food supplements glucosamine and chondroitin can help to relieve
osteoarthritis symptoms, including pain and stiffness. Each of these
supplements can be taken alone or in combination formulations. Recent research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown little if any benefit in comparison to placebo. Keep in mind
that glucosamine has also been marketed as a "cartilage rebuilder." This is in part
under the assumption that, because glucosamine is a component of normal
cartilage, consuming it will assist in the rebuilding of damaged cartilage.
There is no strong evidence that glucosamine alone, or in combination with
chondroitin, is of value in rebuilding cartilage that has been damaged by
Medically reviewed by Kirkwood Johnston, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Rheumatology
Last Editorial Review: 6/6/2016
"Nonpharmacologic therapy of osteoarthritis"