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

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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 Also: 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. 

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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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