Research Reveals Links Between Osteoarthritis and Animal Fat Consumption

Australian researchers have identified a link between saturated fat consumption and the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis -- the first time the relationship has directly been explored.

May. 6, 2017
By Mary Hernandez

Recent News

A first of its kind study by researchers from Australia’s Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Queens­land has iden­ti­fied a con­nec­tion between a diet heavy in sat­u­rated fatty acids and sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates (com­mon com­po­nents of junk food) and the onset of osteoarthri­tis, dis­pelling pre­vi­ously held ideas that joint wear and tear’ is pri­mar­ily respon­si­ble for the onset of the con­di­tion.
See more: Olive Oil Health Ben­e­fits

Researchers found that a diet with just 20 per­cent of sat­u­rated fats was capa­ble of cre­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the kind of load-bear­ing car­ti­lage asso­ci­ated with the devel­op­ment of osteoarthri­tis.

The study also revealed that unsat­u­rated fatty acids such as lau­ric acid had a pro­tec­tive effect on joints instead. Cur­rently, osteoarthri­tis is the most com­mon joint dis­or­der in the United States, occur­ring in an esti­mated 10 per­cent of men and 13 per­cent of women over the age of 60.

The study, titled Sat­u­rated fatty acids induce devel­op­ment of both meta­bolic syn­drome and osteoarthri­tis in rats’ was pub­lished mid-April as a result of a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort between Yin Xiao of the Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Technology’s Insti­tute of Health and Bio­med­ical Inno­va­tion, Lind­say Brown at Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Queens­land and the Prince Charles Hos­pi­tal Research Foun­da­tion.

While pre­vi­ous research into the field has revealed that a con­sump­tion of sat­u­rated fatty acids is indica­tive of osteoarthri­tis devel­op­ment, no study until now has exam­ined the rela­tion­ship between this dis­ease and the con­sump­tion of sat­u­rated fatty acids in indi­vid­ual diets.


Accord­ing to research, the most com­mon sat­u­rated fatty acids found in human diets are lau­ric, myris­tic, palmitic and stearic acid. In the study, rats were either given a diet made up of corn starch or sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates together with 20 per­cent of the above-men­tioned acids or beef tal­low for 16 weeks.

It was observed that the rats that were fed tal­low or a diet with sat­u­rated fatty acids had devel­oped signs of meta­bolic syn­drome, car­ti­lage degra­da­tion and changes in bone struc­ture com­monly expe­ri­enced dur­ing the devel­op­ment of osteoarthri­tis.

The results chal­lenge pre­vi­ously-held assump­tions that obe­sity in and of itself is respon­si­ble for the onset of osteoarthri­tis. While excess weight does add addi­tional stress to joints in the body, an increased pres­ence of sat­u­rated fatty acids in the body may induce infil­tra­tion of the inflam­ma­tory cells which are ulti­mately respon­si­ble for the devel­op­ment of osteoarthri­tis.

While researchers were care­ful to stress that fur­ther human clin­i­cal tri­als are needed to deter­mine whether or not replac­ing foods high in sat­u­rated fatty acids with ones high in monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids or lau­ric acids could reverse the devel­op­ment of osteoarthri­tis, it is evi­dent that while effec­tive, low-car­bo­hy­drate, high-fat diets favored by many for weight loss might do more harm than good.

And while the study did not specif­i­cally address olive oil, pre­vi­ous research indi­cated that com­pounds in olive oil can actu­ally reduce or even reverse the neg­a­tive effects of high fat diets and is not cor­re­lated with seden­tary behav­ior, which could help reduce the like­li­hood of excess weight gain and its asso­ci­ated joint stress.

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