The incorporation of adequate amounts of fiber in the diet has been linked to decreased cholesterol levels, normalized bowel movements, and a healthy weight. Now, there is one more benefit to add to the list. According to new research, people who ate the most fiber reported reduced osteoarthritis symptoms compared to those who consumed less.
Osteoarthritis is a type of joint disease that results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. It is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. The condition is thought to be the result of mechanical stress on the joints combined with a low-grade inflammatory process. Symptoms typically consist of joint pain and stiffness and typically increase over time.
The researchers wanted to find ways to effectively reduce the knee pain found in osteoarthritis patients. By collecting data from two separate fiber studies, they found that those who ate the most fiber had 30% less risk for knee pain. In the other study, the risk was 61 percent less than those who ate the least fiber. However, no differences were seen on x-rays of the knee in high and low fiber eating groups.
“With both of these studies, the danger is that people are thinking they’re making a change in their arthritis, but they may only be masking the pain. Neither study has proven a change in the natural history of osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Victor Khabie, co-director of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital.
The reason fiber is useless is because it reduces osteoarthritis symptoms. The researchers hypothesize that this may be because it reduces inflammation.
There is a strong link between obesity, inflammation, and painful knee arthritis. The researchers speculate that eating increased amounts of fiber is leading to early satiety, therefore reducing caloric intake. This inevitably leads to a reduction in body weight, the main risk factor for osteoarthritis pain.
While the researchers admit that a cause and effect relationship cannot be established, lower rates of osteoarthritis progression are seen in those who lose weight. But this is only an association. However, the picture of an overall healthy lifestyle is proving to have significantly positive effects on the risk of progressive osteoarthritis pain.
“As the average intake of fiber is about 15 grams per day among Americans. This amount is way below the recommended nutritional goal according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, which recommends 22.4 grams/day for women and 28 grams/day for men aged 51 years and above,” said lead researcher Zhaoli Dai, a postdoctoral researcher at Boston University.