Posted on May 22, 2017, 6 a.m.
A new expert review reveals that osteoarthritis can potentially be prevented with exercise and a healthy diet.
For the past few decades, it’s been assumed that growing older and osteoarthritis go hand in hand, just another expected part of the aging process. In the United States alone, 27 million people suffer from its pain and discomfort. It seems to be especially prevalent in post-menopausal women, leading the medical community to believe that its causes lie in some combination of hormones, genetics, and biology. Treatment of osteoarthritis has been focused on managing the symptoms with pharmaceuticals. To date, there is no known cure.
While it’s understood that osteoarthritis is an inflammatory disease, the exact cause or causes have been speculative. Recently researchers in England worked to understand the link between human metabolism and its effect on osteoarthritis.
They learned that poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle cause changes to metabolism. These changes affect how cells work. They observed genetic changes in the cells that altered the way the cells produced the energy needed to function properly. These changes put stress on the cells which caused them to produce glucose. When extra glucose in the body is not used for energy, it becomes lactic acid. Lactic acid is difficult for the body to process and eliminate and too much lactic acid inflames human tissue. If the tissue around a joint’s cartilage becomes inflamed it causes the swelling and pain associated with Osteoarthritis.
Researchers believe that by understanding what causes these metabolic changes, it may be possible to slow down or control the symptoms of the disease. While drugs currently work to alleviate the pain, most agree it would be better to not need them and by simply modifying diet and developing a more active lifestyle, that may just be possible.
As lead author of the review Ali Mobasheri, Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiology at the University of Surrey, stated: "For too long osteoarthritis has been known as the ‘wear and tear disease’ and it has been assumed that it is part and parcel of getting older. However, this is not the case and what we have learned is that we can control and prevent the onset of this painful condition.
"It is important never to underestimate the significance of a healthy diet and lifestyle as not only does it impact upon our general wellbeing but can alter the metabolic behaviour of our cells, tissues and organs leading to serious illnesses."
Ali Mobasheri, Margaret P. Rayman, Oreste Gualillo, Jérémie Sellam, Peter van der Kraan, Ursula Fearon. The role of metabolism in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. Nature Reviews Rheumatology, 2017; 13 (5): 302 DOI: 10.1038/nrrheum.2017.50