The two most common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), afflict one in three American adults. Osteoarthritis, the more prevalent joint condition, often occurs as cartilage wears down over time, causing swelling and pain as bone rubs against bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue, causing inflammation and joint damage.
Diet and lifestyle habits have the potential to either aggravate or alleviate the symptoms of both conditions. In studies where severe rheumatoid arthritis sufferers switched to a low-fat diet and adopted regular exercise, symptoms decreased dramatically—so much so that patients required less medication. Apparently, dietary changes provide the biggest benefits; symptoms reappeared as soon as patients returned to bad eating habits.