Diet Can’t Cure Rheumatoid Arthritis

While a healthy diet has a host of good-for-you benefits, nutrients alone are not likely to slow the progression of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, finds a review of scientific research that was published in RMD Open in April 2022.

The researchers, who are affiliated with the University of Manchester in England, looked at 24 systematic reviews that were published between 2013 and 2018, as well as 150 additional original published studies. Their findings suggest that nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids — in food or taken as supplements — have a small but not clinically meaningful impact on RMD progression, and there are also not enough high-quality dietary studies in existence to support a positive effect.

“There are multiple potential reasons why dietary strategies have so far been found to be ineffective with RMDs,” says epidemiologist and corresponding study author Suzanne Verstappen, PhD, director of social responsibility for the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester. “Perhaps some dietary strategies do have an effect on RMD outcomes, but these have yet to be tested in high-quality research — or dietary strategies may have subtle effects on RMD outcomes that may take a long time to develop and therefore are hard to pick up in clinical trials, which typically have relatively short follow-up durations.”

What the Researchers Found Regarding Diet and Disease Progression

In 2018, the European League Against Rheumatism convened an international task force to look at the potential impact of diet, exercise, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking habits, and paid work on disease progression — and to develop recommendations for clinicians and patients.

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