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10/26/16 8:58 AM

Slowing the Progression of Arthritis

It is increasingly apparent that what is healthy for one’s heart is also good for one’s aching joints and knees.  Current research links significant associations between the types of dietary fat intake with structural progression of knee osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthirits (OA) also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) is the most common chronic condition of the joints affecting more than 3 million people a year or 27 million Americans.  One in two adults will develop symptoms of OA in their lifetime (Arthritis Foundation, 2016).   Common risk factors for developing arthritis include increasing age, previous joint injury, obesity, joint overuse, weak supporting muscles, and genes.



However, top researchers in the field of nutrition science affirm that following a healthy diet may be an effective strategy for the management of knee osteoarthritis.  Furthermore, following a healthy diet and lifestyle is by far more attractive than medications with respect to (long term) risks/benefits.  The results of the following study offer hope for individuals searching for steps to limit the progression of OA.


More importantly, the type of fat consumed in one’s diet is associated with osteoarthritis progression and joint width space changes, both positively and negatively. This was confirmed in a study conducted on over 2,000 participants over a four year period referred to as the Osteoarthritis Initiative.  In the study, increased total dietary fat or saturated fat intake was linked with greater radiographic progression of knee OA.  On the other hand, increased intake of unsaturated fats, mainly polyunsaturated fats, was associated with decreased joint space width loss and a lower risk of progression by up to 30% (Driban, J. and McAlindon, T., 2016).


Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have anti-inflammatory properties which makes them effective in protecting against the progression of OA.

  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)Type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)Type of fat found mostly in plant-based foods and oils.
  • Foods made up mostly of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, and canola oil. Additional foods particularly high in MUFA’s include:  avocados, peanut butter, other nut butters, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, olives and sunflower seeds. Additional foods high in PUFA’s include: fish like salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel and herring.  Walnuts, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds also contain PUFA’s.


What’s more is that the fat choices beneficial for OA also mirror those known to improve glucose and insulin and are helpful in protecting the heart.  When including healthier unsaturated fat in your diet, be sure to consume them in place of saturated and trans fat in your diet. It is recommended to consume fats in moderation.

Written by Laura Kirkpatrick, PT.

Laura Kirkpatrick, PT is contributing author to our blog. She is a Physical Therapist with a Postgraduate certificate in Nutrition.

Topics: arthritis, tips, nutrition