New Study Finds Low Carb Diets Help Knee Osteoarthritis

New Study Finds Low Carb Diets Help Knee Osteoarthritis

A low-carbohydrate diet provides relief from pain in knee osteoarthritis, finds a new study. Low carbohydrate diets not only keep a check on weight but also have an impact on pain in osteoarthritis.

A low carbohydrate diet is one that limits carbohydrate intake and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. Examples of foods high in carbohydrates are the ones that contain refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, cookies, cake, candy, and sugar-sweetened sodas and drinks.

A recent study published in the journal Pain Medicine has shed light on the role of dietary intervention in managing knee osteoarthritis. The study found that the low carbohydrate diet reduced levels of functional pain and self-reported pain compared with the low-fat and regular diets. This (relief from pain), according to the study, is achieved by lowering oxidative stress through consuming less carbohydrates.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee which has become one of the leading causes of disability in older adults. Presently there is no cure for knee osteoarthritis besides knee replacement. Doctors prescribe opioids, acetaminophen, and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the treatment of persistent pain. These drugs, however, present many unpleasant side effects emphasizing the need for alternative forms of pain management.

Robert Sorge, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues set out to find the efficacy of dietary intervention in the reduction of knee osteoarthritis.

The study included adults aged 65 – 75 with knee osteoarthritis. They were asked to follow one of the two dietary interventions: low-carbohydrate (LCD), low-fat (LFD) or continue to eat as usual (control), over 12 weeks. Functional pain, self-reported pain, quality of life, and depression were assessed every three weeks.

The researchers found that:

  • Over a period of 12 weeks, the LCD group reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness in some functional pain tasks, as well as self-reported pain, compared with the LFD and control.
  • The LCD also significantly reduced oxidative stress and adipokine leptin compared with the LFD and control.
  • Reduction in oxidative stress was related to reduced functional pain.

“Many medications for pain cause a host of side effects that may require other drugs to reduce,” said Dr Sorge. “Diet will never ‘cure’ pain, but our work suggests it can reduce it to the point where it does not interfere with daily activities to a high degree.”

Based on the results, the study's authors suggest that oxidative stress may be related to functional pain, and lowering it through LCD intervention could provide relief from pain and be an opioid alternative.

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