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Improving diet and exercise could prevent osteoarthritis, researchers say

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Osteoarthritis is not inevitable as we get older and it may be possible to prevent it with a good diet and regular exercise, according to an expert review published in Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

Researchers from the University of Surrey identified a crucial link between metabolism and osteoarthritis, showing that metabolic changes caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle trigger the genetic reprogramming of cells in the body and joints.

Such metabolic changes impact upon the cells’ ability to produce energy, forcing them to generate alternative sources to function, the university said.

The stress this places on cells leads to the overproduction of glucose, which when not used for energy transforms into lactic acid, which is difficult for the body to flush out. Abnormal levels of this acid in the body lead to inflammation of cartilage in the joints, causing pain and affecting movement.

The researchers believe that, by identifying metabolic changes in cells, it is potentially possible to control or significantly slow down the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Lead author Professor Ali Mobasheri, Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiology at the University of Surrey, said: “For too long osteoarthritis has been known as the ‘wear and tear disease’ and it has been assumed that it is part and parcel of getting older. However, this is not the case and what we have learnt is that we can control and prevent the onset of this painful condition.

“It is important never to underestimate the significance of a healthy diet and lifestyle as not only does it impact upon our general wellbeing but can alter the metabolic behaviour of our cells, tissues and organs leading to serious illnesses.”

Commenting on the study, Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: “We agree that arthritis isn’t a ‘wear and tear condition’, but can be managed by a healthy lifestyle, supported by a good diet and regular exercise.

“We know that vitamins and minerals are important for maintaining healthy joints and bones. Being overweight can put more strain on the joints, increasing the likelihood of developing arthritis. We are continuing to invest in research that looks at how diet, exercise and a range of other factors can help to prevent and limit the pain caused by osteoarthritis.”