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Diet and exercise can help prevent osteoarthritis knee pain

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Overweight adults who are at high risk of suffering knee pain could prevent this in the short term by committing to an intensive exercise and healthy eating regime.

That´s according to a new U.S. study which analysed data on a group of patients who were prescribed intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI), versus patients receiving standard diabetes support and education.

“Prior to this study, we did not have empirical data to support the claim that diet and exercise actually worked to prevent knee pain,” explained Daniel White, assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of Delaware, who led the study.

White and his colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of the Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD) study, a randomized intervention trial of adults aged 45 to 76 years who were obese and had type 2 diabetes.

The analysis involved a sub-group of 2,889 subjects who reported no knee pain at baseline, but were at high risk due to obesity.

Results published in Arthritis Care and Research show that after one year, participants in the diet and exercise group were 15% less likely to develop knee pain. At year four the difference decreased to 5% and was no longer statistically significant, suggesting that this intervention is more effective as a short-term measure.

The authors noted that this decrease might be a consequence of participants not being able to stay with the prescribed diet and exercise programme over the four-year period.

Nevertheless, the study does show a statistically significant protective effect against the development of knee pain in the short term.

“These findings are very important,” White said. “They demonstrate that the recommendations to exercise and diet do make a difference for preventing the development of knee pain among those who are at high risk.”

In their concluding remarks in the published study, the authors said that healthcare providers should consider recommending diet and exercise to their patients who are overweight or obese as a potentially effective means to prevent the development of knee pain.