With winter well and truly kicking in, a lot of us are beginning to feel the annual aches and pains brought on by arthritis a little bit more than usual, and taking steps to fend it off. But while you blame your current situation on the weather, you might want to take a look at another factor that raises its ugly head at this time of year: comfort eating and lifestyle choices that bring on high cholesterol.
We all know that a high cholesterol level can be responsible for serious health conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. But now a series of studies conducted in Australia and China are claiming that the wrong diet and a sedentary lifestyle can also trigger the development of osteoarthritis as well.
What is the link between poor diet and arthritis?
As any medical expert will tell you, our joints constantly undergo low-level stress and damage from the simple activities we undergo on a daily basis. In most cases, this isn’t a problem – our body has the ability to naturally repair any damage on the fly. There are a welter of issues that can prevent this from happening, including obesity, family history, overexertion after a joint injury, and simple old age. And now there appears to be another factor.
According to the studies, conducted on mice, the research teams found that high cholesterol levels induce mitochondrial oxidative stress on cartilage cells. In laypersons terms, that’s a severe genetic imbalance which can damage the body’s ability to repair itself. In the case of our joints, it can cause cartilage cells to die – which ultimately speeds up the onset of osteoarthritis.
As we know, there is no complete cure to osteoarthritis, but it can be managed and even alleviated to the point of minimal suffering. Regular exercise, the wearing of braces and suitable footwear can help, but – as always – prevention is better than cure.
Go Mediterranean this winter
One dietary solution that has been championed for years now and refuses to go away is the Med Diet – foods based around the Mediterranean region that is largely based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, olive oil and fish. A recent study claims that switching to the Med Diet lowers your risk of heart disease by as much as 30% – but new research published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging claims that the Med Diet can not only help you manage your osteoarthritis, but prevent it.
One hundred and twenty-four sufferers of osteoarthritis were split into two, with half put on the Med Diet and half on a control diet. Sixteen weeks later, the group on the Med Diet showed a significant decrease in IL-1a, a pro-inflammatory molecule which influences the progression of osteoarthritis. They also saw an improvement in knee flexion and hip rotation.
Whilst this isn’t claiming a miracle cure, there is obviously a lot to be said for a controlled diet as a tool to avoid arthritis, and another reason to think seriously about what you eat this winter.