If aching joints have been the bane of your existence for a while, switching to a plant-based diet may be a possible solution.
In a recent study featured in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers noted that a vegan diet could reduce the inflammation that causes severe pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This chronic autoimmune disease is characterized by inflammation of one’s connective tissues, leading to joint pain and swelling, physical stiffness, and lasting joint damage over time.
The study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) involved 44 patients diagnosed with the condition who were put on a diet without either meat or dairy products. Scientists noted a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms as the patients adhered to a low-fat plant-based diet and a marked decrease in blood cholesterol levels.
A matter of elimination
Using a visual analog scale (VAS), participants were asked to describe the severity of their symptoms, with parameters ranging from “no pain” to “pain as bad as it could possibly be.” Joint pain in participating patients was also measured using the Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28) protocol which gauges the level of inflammatory activity in the joints.
Patients were then split into two groups. One group followed a vegan diet for four weeks, a three-week regimen that eliminated pain-triggering foods thereafter, and finally, a diet reintroducing eliminated items for the remainder of the study period.
On the other hand, the second group followed an unrestricted diet and ate whatever they wanted throughout the sixteen weeks of the study, along with a placebo.
At the end of the sixteen weeks, the groups switched diet plans.
At the end of the study, researchers noted a striking difference in the DAS28 scores of both groups. During the vegan phase, the scores fell by an average of two points, showing a marked reduction in joint pain. VAS ratings were also much lower when participants were on a vegan diet.
Along with this reduction in pain and joint swelling, researchers also noted that levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol had gone down considerably in participants who were eating more plant-based foods. They also recorded a substantial decrease in weight, with a loss of around 14lbs on average per person during the plant-based phase, but a gain of around two pounds while on a placebo.