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Got Arthritis? Lose Weight and Eat More Fish

Jul. 28, 2014|706 views
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Osteoarthritis (arthritis) is common. It's usually thought of as a disease of aging, characterized by pain and stiffness in the joints. It's often described as a condition that's caused by simple "wear and tear" on the joints. It's usually worse among obese people, and losing just 10 pounds can significantly reduce pain. But is that because of the reduced strain on hard-working joints, or is something else going on?

New research on two fronts suggests arthritis is not inevitable. Losing weight does help. In fact, obesity is considered the number one risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. But it may have more to do with one of the hormones involved in regulating appetite—leptin—than mechanical strain due to body weight. Leptin is made by fat cells, and plays a role in the regulation of hunger.

According to intriguing new research, leptin is the real culprit. There's evidently a metabolic link between obesity and altered cartilage metabolism in joints, and the link is mediated by the hormone, leptin. Working with groups of obese mice, some of which lacked the hunger hormone, researchers at Duke University discovered that leptin may have a dual role in the development of osteoarthritis by regulating both the skeletal and immune systems.

Although both groups of mice were obese, only mice with leptin developed joint inflammation. The message for humans seems clear: if you suffer from arthritis, you can significantly impact your pain and disease by losing even modest amounts of weight.

In related news, new research shows that diets rich in cold-water fish, which supply dietary omega-3 fatty acids, are linked to less osteoarthritis. Conversely, diets rich in saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids (a typical American diet) are associated with worse arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. They're also essential nutrients that must be obtained through the diet. Although some plants, such as walnuts and flaxseed, supply one form of omega-3 fatty acids, fish and fish oil are the best dietary sources of this important nutrient.

Duke Medicine. "Obesity alone does not cause arthritis in animals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2014.

Farshid Guilak et al. Dietary fatty acid content regulates wound repair and the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis following joint injury. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, July 2014 DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-205601

Tags:  omega, natural remedies, health tips, weight loss