The pathways that commonly lead to osteoarthritis derive from lifestyle factors including diet, weight, exercise, and wear and tear from previous injury. Modifications of diet and lifestyle can in fact have the largest impact in the prevention and management of osteoarthritis. So now where do you start?
Vitamin C has been shown to help in reducing the progression of osteoarthritis. One way in which vitamin C contributes to halting the development of osteoarthritis is by promoting the formation of collagen and proteoglycans (two major components of cartilage), which aid in cushioning joints. In addition, vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, counteracting the harmful effects of free radicals in the body, which also can damage joint cartilage. Food sources that contain vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, kiwi, cantaloupe, green-leafy vegetables, cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, and pineapple. Although most adults require between 75 mg(women) and 90 mg(men) of vitamin C daily, osteoarthritis experts recommend consuming 200 mg of vitamin C each day.
Another antioxidant that aids in halting the symptoms of osteoarthritis isbeta-carotene. Beta-carotene is frequently found in various red, yellow, and orange fruits, vegetables such as pumpkins, peppers, and carrots, as well as dark-green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale and Romaine lettuce. The standard dose of beta-carotene for most adults is approximately 2,330 International Units(IU) daily, yet many osteoarthritis experts suggest 9,000 IU of beta-carotene each day.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and bone density, which in turn, facilitates proper joint function. A low intake of vitamin D can lead to an acceleration of cartilage loss. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced by the body following exposure of your skin to sunlight. 15 minutes of sun exposure 3-4 times a week stimulates your body to produce the necessary amount of vitamin D. Limited outdoor activity, cold climate and reduced efficiency of conversion in the aging population results in lower levels of vitamin D. Fortified milk and cereals, eggs, tuna and fish-liver oils are excellent food sources that increase the efficiency of vitamin D absorption. The recommended vitamin D intake ranges from 600 IU(for adults up to age 70) to 800 IU(for adults over age 70), but many osteoarthritis experts suggest at least 600 International Units (IU) daily which may include supplemental forms.
Omega-3 fatty acids suppress and prevent the inflammatory process and also function in the formation of the cell membranes of connective tissue. In contrast, omega-6 fatty acids stimulate factors involved in inflammation, which can contribute to the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, most Americans consume approximately 10 times the inflammation-promoting omega-6 fatty acids than the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Diets containing a large percentage of corn, safflower and cottonseed oil contain a high concentration of omega-6 fatty acids, which should be avoided. Excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, such as salmon, halibut, tuna and sardines, pecans, walnuts, soy food products, olive and canola oils, as well as flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil. Nutrition and health experts acknowledge that omega-3 fatty acids have significant health benefits and should be a part of your regular diet, however a recommended daily intake has not yet been established. Many osteoarthritis experts nevertheless suggest 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily with 0.7 grams derived from fish sources.
While there is no sure-fire way that dietary changes will prevent osteoarthritis, including certain nutrients and vitamins in sufficient amounts plays a role in counteracting the progression of osteoarthritis.