APR 19, 2017 06:59 PM PDT

High-fat, High-carb Diet can Cause Osteoarthritis

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects over 3 million people per year in the United States alone. It is a disorder that comes along with injuries, wear and tear, or degeneration in the joints. It causes swelling, stiffness and pain, and can be caused by a variety of factors. Researchers have now found that saturated fat may be a cause, and not because of weight gain, but because it changes the composition of cartilage, a critical part of joints. They saw the this problem was worst in the hip and knee.

The work was published in Scientific Reports and was performed by the team of Professor Yin Xiao, at Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation in collaboration with Professor Lindsay Brown and his colleagues at the University of Southern Queensland. The researchers believe this work is one of the first to study the link between osteoarthritis and fatty acids that are commonly found in the diet. Some examples of those foods are butter, palm oil, coconut oil, animal fats and carbohydrates. Basically, the researchers are looking at what junk food consumption can do to the body.

There, they found that the fatty acids themselves are causing disease. "Our findings suggest that it's not wear and tear but diet that has a lot to do with the onset of osteoarthritis," Xiao explained.

“The main function of cartilage is to seal the bone ends in a joint and absorb pressure on the bones during weight-bearing movement such as walking. We found that a diet containing simple carbohydrates together with 20 per cent saturated fats produced osteoarthritic-like changes in the knee.

Related: Work Shows Stem Cells Can Reduce Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

"Saturated fatty acid deposits in the cartilage change its metabolism and weaken the cartilage, making it more prone to damage. This would, in turn, lead to osteoarthritic pain from the loss of the cushioning effect of cartilage,” Xiao continued. “We also found changes in the bone under the cartilage on a diet rich in saturated fat."

One member of the research team, doctoral student Sunder Sekar, commented on the testing of a saturated fatty acid that’s in coconut oil, lauric acid. "Interestingly, when we replaced the meat fat in the diet with lauric acid we found decreased signs of cartilage deterioration and metabolic syndrome so it seems to have a protective effect," Sekar said.

These fatty acids might cause tissue inflammation in the entire "joint environment,” Sekar explained. "We tested a variety of saturated fats and found that long term use of animal fat, butter, and palm oil could weaken the cartilage. Replacement of traditional diets containing coconut-derived lauric acid with palm oil-derived palmitic acid or animal fat-derived stearic acid has the potential to worsen the development of both metabolic syndrome and osteoarthritis."

Previous work by Xiao's team has demonstrated how antioxidants and anti-cholesterol drugs could slow the joint degeneration that is caused by fatty acids.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via QUT, Arthritis Foundation, Scientific Reports

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 27, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 27, 2018
Why Screens can Interfere With Sleep
Most of us spend a lot of time looking at some type of screen, whether it's a laptop, a phone, or another device....
DEC 03, 2018
DEC 03, 2018
Finding Emerging Viruses
Scientists have developed a tool that enables them to predict what viruses be transmissible between infected people....
DEC 06, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 06, 2018
Exploiting a Cell's Love of Zinc to Deliver Targeted Therapeutics
With insulin costs rising, the development of alternative treatments for diabetes is becoming a pressing matter....
DEC 14, 2018
DEC 14, 2018
Anti-Opioid Vaccine is in Testing
Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University are testing a vaccine created by Scripps Research Institute....
JAN 01, 2019
Drug Discovery
JAN 01, 2019
Restoring The Fountain of Youth
According to a study published in Nature Communications, a drug treatment that aided the immune system in eradicating old cells in aging mice assisted in t...
JAN 07, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 07, 2019
Glioblastoma Affects Men Differently Than Women
It's been established that men have slightly higher rates of cancer and a greater likelihood of dying from the disease. But why?...
Loading Comments...