Nearly one in four Americans suffer from some form of knee pain, and as we age, it can become harder and harder to relieve those aches. Luckily, a recent study found an important tool for alleviating some of those knee issues, and it won’t require you to take any new medications or buy an expensive medical device.
In a new issue of the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage, researchers wanted to take a closer look at osteoarthritis in the knee given that it’s the most common joint disorder, especially for older Americans. They analyzed data for 2,842 participants between the ages of 45 to 79 years old who didn’t have knee osteoarthritis and followed their progress for six years. They not only tracked their body mass, physical activity, and food intake but also had subjects regularly fill out detailed questionnaires and receive special knee and bone exams.
By the end of the study, scientists concluded that people who ate a “Western diet” tended to have a greater risk of knee osteoarthritis; this is generally comprised of a higher consumption of meat and processed foods with increased sugar and salt content. On the flip side, those who followed a generally more “prudent diet” ran less of a risk of developing knee osteoarthritis and the pain that comes with it. This type of diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and healthy fats and stays away from excess sugar, salt, dairy, and meat. Researchers believe this is due to the fact that many of the food staples that we usually see in Western diets don’t contain the inflammation-fighting compounds that prevent age-related joint disorders.
Scientists aren’t saying that you have to avoid processed sugar, excess salt, and meat forever; they’re suggesting that they be consumed in moderation and don’t make up the bulk of your diet. In other words, by making a few tweaks to what you eat, you could see significant changes in your knee pain. In some cases, that might even mean avoiding medical intervention altogether.