According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly one out of three Americans has arthritis. Of these 66 million adults, 43 million have been diagnosed with arthritis and another 23 million live with chronic joint symptoms that have not been doctor-diagnosed.
In fact, arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability among Americans over the age of 15, and costs related to the disease cost the U.S. economy over $86 billion a year.
Further, half of the people with arthritis do not believe anything can be done to help them.
However, new research into just that is finding that for arthritis prevention may be no further than your neighborhood grocery store. A study from the University of Manchester’s Medical School, published in the August 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that antioxidants called carotenoids in brightly colored yellow/orange fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.
How does it Work?
Oxidation, which produces free radicals in our bodies, is known to play a role in joint damage, such as that seen with rheumatoid arthritis. Antioxidants help to combat free radicals, and by doing so may suppress inflammation along the way, researchers said.
Out of the 25,000 participants in the study, 88 developed cases of inflammatory arthritis. These 88 people had:
- 40 percent lower intake of the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin than those who did not develop the disease
- 20 percent lower intake of another antioxidant zeaxanthin
“Those in the top third for beta-cryptoxanthin intake were only half as likely to develop inflammatory polyarthritis as those in the lowest third, and vitamin C was also found to be an important factor,” said Dr. Dorothy Pattison, the lead researcher of the study.
According to this study and many others, increasing your intakes of certain fruits and veggies does appear to be a sound way to protect against and fight arthritis. Here are the top 14 fruits and vegetables to consider:
- Oranges: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that a modest increase in the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin intake, equivalent to one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice per day, is associated with a reduced risk of developing inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Berries : Berries are all great sources of antioxidants and vitamin C. Blueberries have been ranked number 1 in terms of antioxidant concentrations, but cranberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are good choices too.
- Kiwi: One kiwi provides almost double the vitamin C of an orange, according to the California Kiwifruit Commission. Vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of arthritis.
- Apples: Cornell University researchers found that apples contain antioxidants that fight inflammation (along with allergies, cancer and viruses).
- Cherries: According to Eve Campanelli, PhD in Prevention magazine, after drinking two glasses of black cherry juice (four ounces of juice with four ounces of water) twice a day, 85 percent of her patients experienced at least partial relief from their arthritis pain. Further, the effect continued even after the patients stopped drinking the juice.
- Parsley: Parsley contains beta-carotene, making it a useful ingredient for those with arthritis, says Cherie Calbom, M.S., a certified nutritionist in Kirkland, Washington.
- Prunes: These dried plums are antioxidant powerhouses. Researchers at the Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston found that prunes had more than twice the antioxidant power than any other fruit or vegetable in their study.
- Carrots: They’re rich in the antioxidants vitamin A and carotenoids.
- Broccoli: Calbom says broccoli is helpful for arthritis because of its beta-carotene content. It’s also a rich source of vitamin C.
- Pineapple: Pineapple is rich in the enzyme bromelain, a powerful and natural anti-inflammatory agent.
- Beans: “The protein in beans helps to replace body proteins broken down by inflammation,” says Denise Cedar, a Salem, Oregon-based dietitian.
- Red Grapes: Red grapes are loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis (as well as fight heart disease and cancer).
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been found to help fight degenerative diseases (and reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers). Cooked tomatoes are best when it comes to lycopene.
- Sweet Potatoes: These are loaded with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. One half-cup serving provides twice the Recommended Daily Amount of vitamin E.
It is important to note that effective prevention requires consistent daily intake of the nutrients mentioned. If your diet is deficient in fruits and vegetables you may want to consider supplements containing the beneficial ingredients discussed or one high in oxidative values.