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September 2018 (Vol. 3 Issue 7)

Processed foods could be biggest cause of osteoarthritis
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Processed foods could be biggest cause of osteoarthritis image

Sugars from processed foods are an unsuspected cause of osteoarthritis (OA), researchers believe. And it isn't just down to obesity or being overweight: people who eat a lot of fast foods can develop the problem even if their weight is normal.

High-sucrose processed food triggers inflammation in the joint, and that begins the OA process of erosion of the cartilage that cushions the bones in the joints.

The biggest known cause of OA is excess body fat, but researchers from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have discovered this is a secondary factor to the food we eat. Aside from sucrose-laden foods, a high-fibre diet could also play a part, they say.

Reducing the amount of sugar we eat could help prevent OA, and may even reverse the problem once it's started. The discovery certainly provides a new approach, the researchers say.

Their discovery is so far based only on tests on laboratory mice, but the researchers are confident they would see similar reactions in people. They fed a group of healthy mice different high-fat diets, but quickly discovered that it was the carbohydrates that were affecting their joints. In particular, foods rich in sucrose, or table sugar, started joint inflammation, a typical symptom of early-stage OA. The high-fibre diet changed cartilage genes, and these foods could also trigger OA.

Body weight and body fat didn't seem to be playing a part, the researchers added. Aside from body weight, other risk factors include high-impact physical work, joint injuries, age and genetics.

Osteoarthritis is the most widespread form of disability in the West, affecting around 27 million Americans alone.


References

(Source: Disease Models & Mechanisms, 2018; dmm.034827; doi: 10.1242/dmm.034827)

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