A Japanese study published earlier this year sought to find out which part of the Mediterranean diet helps alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
The study, published in Clinical Nutrition, found that the key lies in monounsaturated fatty acids like those found in olive oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and peanut butter.
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Up until this stage, we’ve known that the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis; Matsumoto et al. from Osaka City University took it a step further and looked for the key elements of the diet that make this so.
The study began in 2010 and was concluded in 2017. The participants in the study included 208 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (or RA), and 205 healthy volunteers who formed the control group. The participants’ food and nutrient intake were assessed. This was done using the BDHQ (or brief self-administered diet history questionnaire). Disease activity scores were measured using the DAS28-ESR (or 28 joints and erythrocyte sedimentation rates).
The results showed that MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) intake was lower in the RA group than in the control group. Furthermore, the MUFA/SFA (SFA stands for saturated fatty acid) ratio differed within the RA group. The study concluded that daily MUFA intake might suppress disease activity in RA patients.
Monounsaturated fats also help reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, which also decreases the risk of strokes and heart disease. Eating a diet high in MUFAs has also been encouraged as a way to reduce belly fat and assist with weight loss.
Last year, the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal cited that “eating a Mediterranean diet with no limit on calories and plenty of olive oil is the best way to stay healthy.” For years, it has been a cultural norm for diets to promote eating low-fat and low-calorie foods, and fats which form part of the Mediterranean diet enjoyed in Southern Europe have been shunned. However, other studies have shown that participants saw the greatest amount of weight loss eating the Mediterranean diet with olive oil as a key component.
Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist advisor to the National Obesity Forum, said: “A high-fat Mediterranean diet which I follow and tell my patients to not only doesn’t lead to weight gain but is also the most protective dietary pattern against heart disease, cancer and dementia.”
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys healthy body tissues. This can result in severe joint pain and exhaustion in patients who suffer from the disease. Over time, this results in progressive joint and cartilage destruction. Findings such as these may help sufferers make dietary adjustments that will help them in the long term.