In this study, researchers from Sweden assessed the influence of diet on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
They studied a total of 51 patients with stable rheumatoid arthritis, of these 26 were assigned to an experimental Mediterranean/Cretan diet for 3 months. The remaining patients continued with their normal diet.
Both groups were similar in terms of their weight and smoking habits.
|Overall, 9 of the 14 measured variables showed improvement.|
|Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases|
The experimental diet used olive and canola oils as a primary source of fat. It was high in fish, poultry, fruit, vegetables, and legumes, but low in red meat and high fat dairy products.
To ensure patients complied with dietary requirements, they were served lunch and dinner at the hospital for the first 3 weeks of the trial. They were taught about Mediterranean food and cooking by the hospital dietician.
The researchers clinically assessed all patients at the start of the study, at the end of the third week, after 6 weeks and again after 12 weeks.
They measured disease activity, reflected in joint tenderness and swelling, physical function, quality of life, and use of anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, the team assessed biochemical indicators, pain severity, and a standard grip test.
The research team found that the patients on the Mediterranean diet lost 3 kg in weight, and their cholesterol levels fell after only 3 weeks.
However, there was little change in any of the variables measured until 6 weeks had elapsed. At this time inflammatory activity began to fall in the patients on the Mediterranean diet.
By the end of 12 weeks, both physical function and vitality had improved. Overall, 9 of the 14 measured variables showed improvement.
There was no evidence of any changes in the group following their normal diet.
Dr Lars Sköldstam’s team cautions that the numbers in this study are small. A larger long-term study is required before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
However, they comment “In theory even a minor effect that is persistent and accumulates over time might become important."