Exploring the Link Between Nutrition and Osteoarthritis
Something that was made abundantly clear very early into my nutrition practice was just how many health issues could be affected by nutrition, and arthritis is one of those issues. Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are 2 diseases both highly impacted by nutrition. In this blog, I would like to share the evidence we have on osteoarthritis, and the improvements nutrition can have in a very short time on pain, mobility and quality of life.
What the Science Tells us About Nutrition and Osteoarthritis
We know from the research that obesity is the largest modifiable risk factor for OA. So losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight should be a primary focus of treatment. Studies tell us:
- A 5 unit increase in BMI increases the risk of getting OA by 35%.
- Just a 10% decrease in weight improves symptoms, reduces pain, and restores physical function and quality of life.
- Patients suffering from obesity with OA in one knee are 5 times more likely to develop OA in the other knee than patients at a heathy weight. They are more likely to need surgery, but are also more likely to suffer rejection or complications from surgery.
- Patients with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and/or type 2 diabetes are far more likely to develop OA, all of which can be managed with nutrition therapy.
- More than half of those with type 2 diabetes have OA, whereas only a quarter of those without the disease develop OA.
The Role of Inflammation on Osteoarthritis
The link between OA and weight does have to do with the increase in mechanical load on the joints, but is more likely to do with the increase in inflammation caused by excess body fat cells, especially if weight is carried around the midsection. Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anxiety, and/or depression, also increase the risk of OA and are linked to worsening of symptoms, however all of these conditions are also improved with the right nutrition and lifestyle adjustments. A weight loss program is a primary goal, however, the management of pre-existing health issues need to be addressed also. The diet should focus on an individual, holistic approach with a primary focus on reducing inflammation.
- Nutrition therapy can help reduce inflammation, pain and improve mobility for those with OA.
- High fiber diets are OA protective and reduce risk of developing the disease.
- Obtaining optimum nutrient status for specific nutrients (Vitamins D, E, and K, and Omega 3) is essential.
- A Mediterranean or plant based anti-inflammatory diet improves symptoms and quality of life.
- Caffeine is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis.
- Incorporating therapeutic fasting can offer additional benefit to OA through weight loss, and reduced inflammation. *Fasting is not suitable for everyone.
What is the Optimal Diet for OA Management?
If the body is highly inflammatory (which is very dependent on the diet we choose) it is highly likely that this state will drive osteoarthritis disease progression right out of the gates. Based on the current research, as well as my clinical experience, I recommend the following 3 tips for anyone suffering from OA looking to improve their health and quality of life.
- Choose an anti-inflammatory diet. The Mediterranean diet and plant based diets are both anti-inflammatory, however you don’t need to follow either of these strictly to achieve reduced inflammation. The composition can be tailored to your lifestyle and preferences while still getting inflammation down, and ultimately reducing OA symptoms. The focus needs to be on plenty of fruit and vegetables, high fiber starchy carbohydrates, quality lean proteins and unsaturated fats
- Fast*Although fasting is not suitable for everyone, if it is possible, it is life changing. Even 1 prolonged fast could reduce inflammation and pain more than taking an analgesic. Not to mention it is a huge help in achieving weight loss. Fasting types range from restricted daily eating to an 8 hour window, or complete food abstinence every second day, to everything in between, however some types work much better for OA than others. * Anyone on Diabetic blood sugar lowering medication, pregnant, breastfeeding, or with a history of disordered eating should not fast
- Maintain a healthy weight. This can seem like an impossible task if you have dieted unsuccessfully in the past, but typically dieting has an over 95% fail rate in sustaining weight loss long term. Nutrition therapy is not about restriction but about understanding the right nutrition path for your needs, and addressing the “why” weight is a struggle for you in the first place. More often than not, weight issues are influenced by behaviors, emotional/stress eating, hormones, and issues with appetite and satiety
To understand more about how nutrition therapy can help, book a 15 minute virtual, or in person discovery consultation with Mel.
Melissa Cronshaw helps patients to optimize their nutrition for health and guides patients through sustainable weight loss and the various stages of life, particularly for challenging periods like menopause. Mel is an internationally educated Nutrition Therapist, registered with CANNP in Canada, as well as a Registered Associate Nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition in the UK. She completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Nutritional Science, specializing in clinical and sport nutrition at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. After graduating, she set up a private practice in the UK where she provided 1-1 personalized nutrition programs. She also regularly delivered presentations to various groups on a range of health and wellness topics including chronic fatigue syndrome, menopause, and breast cancer nutrition. After moving back to Calgary in 2021, she continues to deliver these presentations to gyms, employers and community groups.
Our childhood habits, lifestyle, jobs, family dynamic, as well as many other factors, contribute to the development of our eating habits which may be detrimental to our long term health. We all eat so differently, which is why personalization through evidence-based nutrition is the only effective way of achieving sustainable weight loss and making meaningful food choices. Mel will guide you through the research to discover and understand the most impactful nutritional habits for your needs. The areas Mel can help manage include, but are not limited to, weight loss, women’s health (menopause, PMS, PCOS, etc), type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, IBS, nutritional deficiencies and more. Nutrition and lifestyle practices have the potential to profoundly change the course of our life from a poor state of health to optimal wellness, health and vitality. To see how nutrition therapy can help you, book a 15 minute discovery call with Mel so she may answer any questions you may have.