Arthritis: Should you avoid drinking milk if you have arthritis? What the research says2021-02-06
Arthritis: Doctor gives advice on best foods to help ease pain
In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or other, similar conditions that affect the joints. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types of arthritis – they share many of the same symptoms but vary in terms of their causes. As Harvard Health explains, osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage (tissue in your joints that cushions your bones) wears away. “Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition in which your immune system attacks the tissues in your joints.”
Although there is no currently no cure for arthritis, diet can exacerbate or improve symptoms.
Certain items, such as processed meats, are known to inflame joints so are best avoided.
Other dietary decisions have been the subject of vigorous debate over the years, with research often yielding conflicting results.
Drinking milk has often caused a divergence of scientific opinion, according to Frank Hu, MD, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
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As he explained to the non-profit research body Arthritis Foundation (AF), research into the impact of milk on arthritis symptoms is inconclusive.
“The picture is murky, and the results are not very consistent,” he said.
It’s clear that a diet high in saturated fats – which are plentiful in cheese and full-fat dairy products – can increase inflammation.
But other fatty acids found in dairy have been linked to health benefits such as a reduced risk of diabetes, said Dr Hu.
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What the research says
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that eating dairy foods increased low-grade inflammation in a small sample of German adults.
As opposed to acute inflammation, which is short and sharp, low-grade inflammation can simmer under the surface for a long time.
What’s more, a study of more than 40,000 people with osteoarthritis found that those who ate more dairy products were more likely to need hip replacement surgery.
On the other hand, several studies have found that drinking milk and eating yogurt can lower the risk of gout.
Despite conflicting information, overall, research paints a positive picture for milk-based products, AF reports.
A review of 52 clinical studies published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition concluded that dairy generally has anti-inflammatory effects, except in people allergic to cow’s milk.
Still, the authors of that review noted there’s surprisingly little known about what components of dairy products might be helpful versus harmful.
As the AF explains, milk-based products contain all sorts of nutrients and active compounds, including calcium, vitamin D and a variety of fats and proteins.
“And the proportions of those nutrients vary from food to food,” says the health body.
What are the main symptoms of arthritis?
There are lots of different types of arthritis.
As the NHS points out, the symptoms you experience will vary depending on the type you have.
This is why it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis if you have:
- Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
- Inflammation in and around the joints
- Restricted movement of the joints
- Warm red skin over the affected joint
- Weakness and muscle wasting.
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