News on Wellness

Links Between Diet, Rheumatoid Arthritis Being Studied

Two new studies are being conducted to determine how diet may influence the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The results of the two studies are to be presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in San Francisco. The data and conclusions presented at the meetings should be considered preliminary.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, characterized by pain, stiffness and swelling in multiple joints. It occurs when the immune system turns its attacks against invading organisms towards the membrane lining the joints. During the inflammation process, the membrane lining the joints becomes thick and makes the joint swollen, puffy, and sometimes warm to the touch.

One study included nearly 94,000 American women between the ages of 25 to 42. The women in the first study provided information about their diet every four years between 1991 and 2011. The study revealed that those who ate a typical North American diet high in meat, refined grains, fried food, high-fat dairy and sweets, were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who ate a diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, poultry and fish. During the course of the study, nearly 350 of the participants developed rheumatoid arthritis.

The same research team analyzed other data from the first study for a subsequent study and found that following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans can lower the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Those guidelines help people make informed food choices so that they can maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk of chronic disease. While the new research found an association between healthy eating and a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, it doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in all races and ethnic groups and often begins in middle age. More women develop it than men. It is estimated that about 1.5 million people currently have rheumatoid arthritis. The cause of the condition is unknown.

A case of rheumatoid arthritis can range from mild to severe and in most cases it is chronic. The disease can lead to joint damage and deformity. In severe cases, the only option for relief may be surgical intervention. Milder cases are managed with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications.

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis have other symptoms in places in addition to their joints. Some develop a reduction in the production of red blood cells, leading to anemia. Other effects include neck pain, dry eyes and mouth, inflammation of the blood vessels, inflammation of the lining of the lungs, or inflammation of the sac enclosing the heart.

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