Study shows how healthy eating and light exercise can help osteoarthritis

Photo credit: Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

Recent research has provided further evidence underlining the importance of a healthy diet and light exercise in combating arthritis. The advantages could even reach as far as the cellular level, according to study findings published in Experimental Cell Research.

A team of researchers from Washington State University (WSU) focused on osteoarthritic cartilage cells taken from knees that were donated by patients after joint replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis, which causes joints to become painful and stiff, is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. It is more common in women and older age groups, with X-ray studies showing that at least 50 per cent of people over the age of 50 have evidence of osteoarthritis.

In addition to pain and stiffness, symptoms of the condition include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • A grating or crackling sound when moving the affected joints

In an effort to improve understanding of how the effects of osteoarthritis could be mitigated, the WSU researchers used gallic acid - an antioxidant found in gallnuts, green tea and some plants - in combination with a stretching mechanism that was applied to the cartilage cells. The mechanism was designed to emulate the stretching that occurs during walking.

The results provided a number of positive indications, including decreased arthritis inflammation markers in the cells and improved production of proteins normally found in healthy cartilage.

While the research is still at a preliminary stage, it could raise the possibility of new procedures being developed based on the extraction of cartilage cells from a patient for treatment. This could then lead to the growth of cells or tissue to be re-implanted.

Haneen Abusharkh, the study's lead author and recent WSU PhD graduate, summarised the research as "basically like having good exercise and a good diet on a micro-scale".

Bernard Van Wie, WSU professor in the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering and principal investigator on the study, added: "We are advancing techniques to make regenerative cartilage in the laboratory that could potentially be implanted into cartilage lesions, so that joint replacements would decrease in number.

"We're looking to develop a natural cartilage that works properly from the beginning, rather than replacing the joint."

While they were keen to stress that gallic acid should not be seen as a "miracle cure", the team also noted that these findings provide further evidence that it could be beneficial for people with arthritis to eat foods high in antioxidants.

There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, but it has also been found that the condition doesn't necessarily get worse over time.

Common treatments available to people living with it include lifestyle measures such as eating healthily and exercising, pain relief medication and supportive therapies to make everyday activities easier.

Researchers have published findings suggesting that the antioxidant gallic acid, combined with light exercise, could help to combat the effects of osteoarthritis

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