The study found that participants who stick to a plant-based diet saw a reduction in tender joints, swollen joints, and inflammation in the body.
woman with arthritis grabbing wrist
Credit: Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

If you have arthritis—the swelling of one or more joints—you know how difficult it can be to manage the pain. The condition often worsens with age and causes stiffness, swelling, and decreased mobility in the joints. While there are a few things you can do to minimize the discomfort, like stretch and focus on range of motion exercise, a new study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine says adhering to a specific diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce arthritis symptoms.

To obtain their findings, researchers first asked participants to rate the severity of their worst joint pain, from "no pain" to "pain as bad as it could possibly be." Each participant's Disease Activity Score-28, also known as DAS28, was also calculated by researchers. This score is based on tender joints, swollen joints, and inflammation in the body.

They then assigned 44 participants previously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects joints and other body systems—to one of two groups for 16 weeks. The first group adhered to a vegan diet for four weeks, as well as the elimination of additional foods like citrus fruits and chocolate for three weeks. Then, over a span of nine weeks, the banned foods were slowly reintroduced to participants' diet. The second group followed an unrestricted diet and were asked to take a daily placebo capsule. Then the groups switched diets for 16 weeks.

During the period where participants adhered to a strictly vegan diet, their DAS28 decreased by two points on average, which means they saw a reduction in joint pain. What's more, the average number of swollen joints decreased from seven to just over three during the vegan portion of the study. The placebo group actually saw a slight increase in the number of swollen joins, from 4.7 to five on average. In addition to reduced rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, participants' body weight decreased by an average of 14 pounds—and there were also reductions in bad cholesterol during the vegan phase.


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