Obesity is a main osteoarthritis risk factor, but why? When it occurs in the knees, this seems to make sense; excess weight equals excess wear and tear. However, the condition manifests in non-load-bearing joints as well, such as those in the hands. Recent research suggests that the link between obesity and osteoarthritis may be rooted in diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are hailed for their anti-inflammatory capacity. These polyunsaturated fats are associated with reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems. They work with omega-6 fatty acids to control the inflammatory response. In order to serve this function, the two fats must maintain a certain proportion with one another. The exact proportion needed for maximum health isn’t known for sure, but we do know that the average Western diet is far too heavy in omega-6’s – at a ratio of about 16:1. A ratio of between 2 and 5:1 has been associated with improved outcomes for people with cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
For more on the ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s, see www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Researchers recently sought to determine whether omega-3’s had an impact on the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee in mice. They fed mice one of three types of diet: high in saturated fats, high in omega-6’s and supplemented with omega-3. They tracked the healing of knee injuries in mice while feeding them one of the above diets. Results were poor for both the saturated fat and omega-6 groups. The mice that were fed a heavy omega-6 diet showed abnormal bone remodeling, increased inflammation and a significant loss of cartilage. Omega-3 supplementation didn’t reverse or cure the injury, but it slowed the progression of osteoarthritic damage significantly.
See more on this study at www.sciencedaily.com.
The mice in the omega-3 group were fed a diet rich in omega-6’s and only slightly supplemented by omega-3; this suggests that, for protection against osteoarthritis, people wouldn’t have to go too out of their way incorporating the stuff into their diets. Supplementation is an option, but natural food sources are generally the best way to go nutritionally. The following are foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids:
Canned Albacore Tuna
We have reason to believe that omega-3 fatty acids are important not only for heart health, but for joint health as well. If you have or want to take a step to prevent osteoarthritis, along with other serious health conditions, incorporate more of this beneficial fatty acid into your diet.