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Eating More Fiber Linked to Lower Risk of Knee Osteoarthritis

Previous studies have found that a fiber-rich diet may help reduce blood pressure, weight and systemic inflammation, as well as help improve blood glucose control. Now a recent study suggests that eating a fiber-rich diet may help lower the risk of developing painful knee osteoarthritis.


The researchers examined data from two studies: the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) and the Framingham Offspring cohort study. Participants in the OAI included approximately 5,000 people with an average age of 61 who either had or were risk for osteoarthritis. Participants in the Framingham Offspring cohort study included more than 1,200 adult children of the original Framingham Heart Study, as well as their partners. For this study, the researchers examined data collected between 1993 and 1994, when the participants were an average age of 54, through 2004-2005.


Both studies used Food Frequency Questionnaires to measure dietary fiber intake. Participants in the OAI consumed an average 15 grams daily of dietary fiber, while participants in the Framingham Heart Study consumed an average 19 grams daily. The researchers also collected information about symptoms of knee osteoarthritis as well as x-ray evidence every four years for the OAI and every nine years for the Framingham Offspring study. Finally, data about lifestyle factors that could influence the risk of knee osteoarthritis was collected.


The researchers found that of the 4,051 participants in the OAI with complete data on dietary fiber intake, 869 had symptomatic knees, 152 had x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis, and 1,964 had worse pain. For the Framingham study, 971 had complete dietary fiber data after nine years. Of those participants, 143 had symptomatic knees and 175 had x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis.


After analyzing the data, the researchers determined that eating more fiber was associated with a lower risk of painful knee osteoarthritis. In the OAI, the highest intake quartile had a 30% lower risk of painful knee osteoarthritis when compared with the lowest intake quartile. In the Framingham study, the highest quartile had a 61% lower risk compared to the lowest quartile. The OAI cohort also showed an association between eating more fiber in general as well as high-fiber cereal and a significantly lower risk of worsening knee pain.


Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine led the study. It was published online ahead of print on May 23, 2017, in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.


Previous studies have linked fiber consumption with lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, regulating blood sugar for people with diabetes and breast cancer prevention.

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