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What are the dietary recommendations for someone with osteoarthritis?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

People with osteoarthritis should eat a healthy, low-fat diet. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity can help slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

A good diet with adequate sources of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E might help protect joint cartilage.

Foods can't cause osteoarthritis, but a poor diet can make the condition worse. A high-fat diet can cause weight gain and obesity, which trigger inflammation in the body, and can lead to joint damage and osteoarthritis. Fat also causes inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation of the joints is a leading cause of the debilitating pain that stems from osteoarthritis.

More research needs to be done to determine how dietary practices are related to osteoarthritis.

The most useful dietary intervention for osteoarthritis is to lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight or obese increases the stress on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and your hips. Even a small amount of weight loss can take off some pressure and reduce your pain. Like any weight loss program, don’t try to take it off too fast. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week, until you reach your goal weight. Even before, you may notice improvements in your joint pain. Talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian about healthy ways to lose weight.

Although diet can't cure osteoarthritis, certain foods can help relieve pain, cool inflammation and boost bone and muscle strength. Nutrition can also play a big part in helping your body heal itself. A balanced diet is the right place to start. Make sure it includes a heaping helping of antioxidants and a solid dose of essential fatty acids, too.

Antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C, D and E may slow disease progression of osteoarthritis. (Beta carotene may boost your cancer-fighting defenses, too.) Also, anthocyanins—flavonoids found in red cherries—may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Essential fatty acids appear to help quiet inflammatory processes, and omega-3 fatty acids may be particularly helpful for joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. These fats are found in flaxseeds, walnuts, olive oil and oily fish, such as salmon.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.