According to a new study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, a low-fat vegan diet can help rheumatoid arthritis patients lose fat while also relieving joint pain.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) conducted the study on 44 rheumatoid arthritis patients who had previously been diagnosed.
Participants in the study used a visual analogue scale (VAS) at the start of the study to rate the severity of the worst joint pain in the previous two weeks on a scale of “pain as bad as it could possibly be” to “no pain.”
The Disease Activity Score-28 was also used to assess each participant’s pain (DAS28).
This combined index computes pain based on tender joints, swollen joints, and C-reactive protein levels, which indicate inflammation in the body. DAS28 levels rise in correlation with the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.
For 16 weeks, the study participants were divided into two groups.
For four weeks, the first group adhered to a vegan diet. Additional foods were eliminated for three weeks before being reintroduced one at a time over a nine-week period.
Meanwhile, the second group had no dietary restrictions and was given a placebo capsule, which had no effect on the study.
After 16 weeks, the diets of the two groups were switched
Researchers discovered that groups in the vegan phase of the study had significantly improved VAS ratings by the end of the study.
Furthermore, participants on the vegan diet saw their DAS28 drop by 2 points on average, compared to a 0.3 point drop in the placebo phase.
While the vegan group’s average swollen joint score decreased from 7 to 3.3, the placebo group’s average number of swollen joints increased from 4.7 to 5.
The vegan diet also resulted in lower LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as an average 14-pound weight loss (compared to a 2-pound weight gain during the placebo phase).
The study’s researchers concluded that a plant-based diet can help alleviate arthritic pain based on their findings.
‘Prescription for joint pain relief’
“A plant-based diet could be the prescription for millions of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis,” said Neal Barnard, MD, the study’s lead author and president of PCRM.
“And all of the side effects, such as weight loss and lower cholesterol, are only positive.”