Do you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis? If so, read on. The tendency to get rheumatoid arthritis is genetic. But even if you have the genes for rheumatoid arthritis, that doesn't mean you have to get it. And recently, researchers published the results of a study that shows that something as simple as a healthy diet can spell the difference between having rheumatoid arthritis and not having it. But what is meant by a healthy diet? And how big of a difference does it make?
The authors of the study followed more than 170,000 women for up to 40 years. At the beginning of the study, all of the women were free from rheumatoid arthritis and any other autoimmune disease. The researchers evaluated the content of their diets every two years. Here's what they found.
Of these women, 1,007 of them developed rheumatoid arthritis. Among women less than 55, having a healthy diet decreased their risk of getting the disease by 33%. There was no risk reduction for women who got rheumatoid arthritis after 55. This is probably because menopause is a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis. So, a healthy diet can make a big difference on risk, but what do these authors mean by a healthy diet?
Diets were termed healthy or not depending on the AHEI-2010 dietary quality score. This is a scoring system based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is composed of 11 foods and nutrients consistently associated with lower or higher chronic disease risk. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, long-chain omega-3 fat, polyunsaturated fat, and moderate alcohol consumption.
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So, if your diet is composed primarily of these foods, you're much less likely to come down with rheumatoid arthritis. Scores were lowered when the diets included sugar-sweetened beverages (including fruit juice), red and processed meat, trans fat, and extra sodium. That means that excluding these foods will also lower your risk.
Now the results of this study should not be too surprising. It's not hard to figure out why eating excessive amounts of sugar and alcohol increases the risk of disease while eating whole foods decreases risk. Sugar and alcohol contain "empty calories." This means they not only contain no nutrients, they also rob the body of the nutrients it already has. Not a good combination!
But what about individual foods? Were there any specific foods that increased the risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis all by themselves? The only foods that were statistically likely to increase the chance of getting rheumatoid arthritis all by themselves were heavy alcohol and red meat consumption.
According to lead author Bing Lu, PhD, MD, "These results indicate that an overall healthy diet quality may be more beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis risk reduction than individual foods and nutrients, particularly for early-onset seropositive rheumatoid arthritis."
But there's more you can do to avoid this horrible disease. Besides doing everything you can to eat in a healthy way, it doesn't hurt to have a little insurance in the form of extra nutrition. You can get that with Advanced Greens Formula and Super Immune QuickStart.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Hu Y, Sparks JA, et al. Long-term dietary quality and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. Ann Rheum Dis. 2017 Jan 30. pii: annrheumdis-2016-210431.