Study Reveals Possible Link Between Osteoarthritis, Diet

CHAPEL HILL - Vitamin E and other naturally occurring antioxidants in the diet appear to protect against knee arthritis, a degenerative condition that will become an increasing national health problem as baby boomers age, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine study shows.

The study, presented Monday (Nov. 9) at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in San Diego, suggests that middle-aged and older people might reduce the almost inevitable pain and restricted movement osteoarthritis causes by altering their diets.

"We analyzed blood serum from 200 people with knee osteoarthritis and compared their levels of various anti-oxidants with 200 control subjects who did not have the problem," said Dr. Joanne Jordan, research assistant research professor of medicine at UNC-CH's Thurston Arthritis Research Center. "We found vitamin E, also called alpha tocopherol, to be associated with about 30 percent lower risk of knee osteoarthritis in whites. We did not see a protective effect in blacks, but don't know why."

Beta cryptoxanthine, lutein and lycopene -- common in orange and green vegetables and tomatoes -- all appeared to reduce the odds of knee osteoarthritis by 30 percent to 40 percent, Jordan said. On the other hand, delta and gamma tocopherols - found in soybean, palm and other oils -- as much as doubled the risk of knee problems, particularly in blacks.

Subjects in the study were subgroups of 3,200 people participating in the university's continuing Johnston County (N.C.) Osteoarthritis Project, the first racially balanced, population-based study of the condition in whites and blacks. The UNC-CH researchers reported two years ago that excess weight created more functional problems for blacks than for whites.

Anti-oxidants, including carotenoids and tocopherols, are compounds many scientists believe have some natural ability to minimize tissue damage resulting from agi

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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