Osteoarthritis: High Nutrient Supply

From the March 2005 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

High cholesterol levels and other blood markers of heightened cardiovascular risk are a documented risk factor for both knee and generalized osteoarthritis.1 It is not difficult to understand why osteoarthritis is related to meat and cheese consumption, since sufferers of both conditions are more likely to have high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. These are typical signs of a diet that promotes atherosclerosis, impaired circulation, and subsequent cartilage compromise.2

Populations with lower rates of heart disease, such as the Chinese, correspondingly have lower rates of osteoarthritis in the same age bracket. The elderly in Beijing, China were found to have 80-90 percent less osteoarthritis than elderly Americans.3 Radiographic signs of arthritis in the age range of 60-89 were found in only about one percent in the Chinese portion of the study, and the percentage did not increase with age.

Cardiac risk factors also are risk factors for arthritis, but there is more to the story. Marginal nutrient intake also can interfere with the chondrocytes’ ability to make structurally strong cartilage. Contrary to the view held for many years, in osteoarthritis the cartilage does not passively erode away; in fact, the body works hard to protect itself. In the early years when the joints are stressed by improper nutrition, the body increases the production of cartilage in an attempt to compensate. The production of cartilage matrix has been observed to increase as much as six times the normal amount in the beginning phase of osteoarthritis.

The problem lies in the production of poor quality cartilage. Without optimal nutrition, DNA synthesis goes on, but does not perform singing the best tune. As time goes on and the disease advances, the chondrocytes start to die and collagen synthesis falls.

Mounting research has pointed to the fact that a high intake of carotenoids, particularly lutein and beta-cryptoxanthin, found in colorful vegetables, is necessary for high-quality cartilage.4 Studies also have shown that low levels of boron, selenium, glutathione, and sulfur are related to osteoarthritis incidence and exacerbation.5 The good news is that if osteoarthritis is caught early—before much loss of cartilage and death of chondrocytes—and nutritional excellence is initiated, most of the damage still can be reversible.

Fish oil supplements, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), glucosamine, and chondroitin have been shown to be helpful in retarding the advancement and reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.6 Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce joint inflammation, and glucosamine and chondroitin can supply nutrients needed for cartilage synthesis. Keep in mind, however, that just as with other diseases, supplements alone are not all that is necessary for optimal results. However helpful supplements may be, without the adoption of a superior diet containing the full concert of healthful phytochemicals and antioxidants that results in low cholesterol, one cannot expect maximum healing and maximum protection against OA. Once excellent nutrition is instituted, the body adequately produces its own cartilage precursors, and supplements have little effect.

Here’s more on osteoarthritis:
1. Cheras PA, Whitaker AN, Blackwell EA, et al. Hypercoagulability and hypofibrinolysis in primary osteoarthritis. Clin Orthop 1997;334:57-67. Al-Arfaj AS. Radiographic osteoarthritis and serum cholesterol. Saudi Med J 2003;24(7):745-7.

2. Cheras PA, Whitaker AN, Blackwell EA, Sinton TJ, et al. Hypercoagulability and hypofibrinolysis in primary osteoarthritis. Clin Orthop 1997:334:57-58.

3. Nevitt MC, Xu L, Zhang Y, et al. Very low prevalence of hip osteoarthritis among Chinese elderly in Beijing, China, compared with whites in the United States: the Beijing osteoarthritis study. Arthritis Rheum 2002;46(7):1773-9.

4. De Roos AJ, Arab L, Renner JB, et al. Serum carotenoids and radiographic knee osteoarthritis: the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project. Public Health Nutr 2001;4(5):935-42.

5. Devirian TA, Volpe SL. Dietary vitamins and selenium diminish the development of mechanically induced osteoarthritis and increase the expression of antioxidative enzymes in the knee joint of STR/1N mice. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2003;43(2):219-31.

6. McAlindon TE, LaValley MP, Gulin JP, Felson DT. Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Treatment of Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Quality Assessment and Meta-analysis. JAMA 2000;283:1469 1475. Towheed TE, Anastassiades TP, Shea B, et al. Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis. Evidence-Based Nursing 2001;4:121 or Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2001;(1): CD002946 (latest version 8 Dec 1999).
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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Doug - June 19, 2008 3:06 AM

In laymans terms,I would translate this like. If you repetively over use your joints by working to hard to long and to many days in a row,And don't give your joints time to replenish themselves,Then quite likely damage to the joints will result. So if this process was to continue for say 2 decades or so,then one should not be surprized to find out they've worn themselves out prematurely. In summery if you work your body to hard it will most likely wear out.So intense hard labour can be tied to work related osteoarthritis.

Daryl Neal - October 6, 2009 6:26 PM

Re, Doug - June 19, 2008 3:06 AM.

Doug has nailed my osteoarthritis fairly and squarely on the head in laymans terms.

I'm a 55 yr old housepainter who has worked himself to the bone doing intense and repetitive work for 3 decades.

Refreshing to see his summary in easily understandable plain English.

Cheers all,
Daryl Neal
Dargaville
New Zealand

Daryl Neal - April 12, 2010 10:36 PM

Hello Dr Fuhrman,

Do you have any updates on Osteo-arthritis since you wrote the above article and have you published anything on the link between cold and osteo-artritis? Not air pressure or humidity but the relation between cooler temperatures (18c and down) and OA.

Thank you
Daryl Neal
New Zealand

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