Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 20% of Americans. Millions of people have their mobility and lifestyle limited by the pain, tenderness and stiffness associated with the loss of cartilage in this degenerative joint disease.
Can anything be done beyond physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs?
Yes! If you or someone you love is dealing with this debilitating health problem, there is an effective treatment that is non-invasive and delicious.
According to the latest research, a whole food, plant-based diet significantly improves the functional status of osteoarthritis patients.
In this article, I am going to share with you the study details, and explain how and why a whole food, plant-based diet greatly reduces the pain associated with this condition in as little as two weeks.
Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet Alleviates the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis Study
This was a 6-week, prospective randomized open-label study of patients aged 19 – 70 with osteoarthritis. Thirty-seven people completed the study, with 18 in the control group and 19 in the intervention group. The majority of the participants were female, and 73% were age 55 or older.
The intervention group received a one-hour training on whole food, plant-based diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. They were encouraged to get at least 90% of their calories from plants, primarily unrefined whole foods. They went home with recipes and some training materials, and got busy preparing and eating WFPB meals.
The control group received one hour of traditional instruction and continued their normal omnivorous diet. (I always feel bad for the control group!)
Participants in both groups received weekly follow up calls to record what they ate over the last 24 hours. They also reported the total number of meat and dairy servings consumed over the week.
During the study, the participants rated their bodily pain, physical functioning, general health, social functioning, emotional and mental health, and energy/vitality. Blood pressure and BMI were recorded.
How did it turn out?
Participants on the WFPB diet reported significant improvements in energy/vitality and physical functioning from week 2 onward. What a relief that must have been!
They also lost some weight. Even though they weren’t counting calories or restricting intake, a WFPB diet is less calorie dense than an omnivorous diet and eating this way naturally led to weight loss.
So why does a WFPB diet work so well for OA pain reduction?
Arachidonic Acids and Osteoarthritis
To reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it, we need to eliminate the primary causes.
The typical Western diet includes daily consumption of animal protein in the form of meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs, as well as vegetable oils. This diet is high in arachidonic acids which are precursors to proinflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain by limiting the metabolism of arachidonic acid. A whole food, plant-based diet consisting of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit is naturally low in arachidonic acids and removes these precursors. No arachidonic acid. No painful, pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
A WFPB diet is rich in omega-3 fats. Individuals that eat this way have higher serum levels than people that eat meat or even fish. Metabolism of the ALA found in legumes, vegetables and whole soy foods produces the good kind of prostaglandins – the anti-inflammatory ones.
Maybe you’ve heard the term “leaky gut?” Eating animal protein increases the permeability of the small intestine. This allows bacteria to get through into the bloodstream and form bulky immune complexes that get lodged in small capillaries. This results in inflammation and damage over time, leading to chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
The Benefits of a WFPB Diet are Clear
By eliminating animal products and eating a whole food, plant-based diet, individuals with osteoarthritis were able to move and feel much better very quickly. What a gift! Just think how that improved their mood, their relationships and their experience with life.
And they lost weight without even trying. They were able to eat to satiety and still lose weight. No calorie counting and no deprivation. This supports other studies that have shown that eating plant-based is actually easier to stick to that calorie restriction on an omnivorous diet. If you’re not hungry all the time, you’re much less likely to go off the rails.
By reducing inflammation and reducing the weight on their joints, they achieved what other interventions like physical therapy and medications could not accomplish alone.
“The present and earlier studies provide further evidence for the beneficial effects of WFPB diets in many patients with OA. We hope that the results from the current study will encourage appreciation and clinical evaluation of dietary variables and that WFPB diet therapies are recommended as an adjunct to standard medical management of this debilitating chronic disease.” – Study Authors
If you are suffering from osteoarthritis, your fork is a powerful tool for wellness. I encourage you to learn more about a WFPB diet and how it can help you dramatically improve your health.
As a Certified Health Coach, it is my privilege to help individuals make a quick and doable transition to this way of eating. I invite you to book a complimentary 30-minute phone Health Consultation to explore options for support.