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Diet’s Influence on Arthritis Symptoms and Risk Factors

A significant portion of U.S. adults, almost 25%, grapple with the painful symptoms of arthritis, as reported by the CDC. While a definitive cure for arthritis remains elusive, dietary adjustments can potentially alleviate symptoms such as joint pain, and swelling, and even reduce the risk of developing various forms of arthritis.

Red Meat:

Studies suggest that red meats, including beef, pork, lamb, and veal, may exacerbate inflammation, leading to heightened arthritis symptoms. Extensive research indicates that adopting plant-based diets could contribute to a reduction in pain for individuals with arthritis.

Notably, the higher fat content, particularly saturated fat, in red meats is associated with increased inflammation, potentially worsening joint swelling and arthritis symptoms, according to Verywell Health. Processed meats like hot dogs, pepperoni, and bacon are also flagged, with a 2021 study linking their high consumption to an increased risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis compared to diets centered around fish and poultry.


While recent studies connect individuals with celiac disease to a higher susceptibility to Rheumatoid arthritis, reducing gluten intake might prove beneficial in alleviating joint inflammation. Research indicates that a gluten-free diet can significantly ease arthritis symptoms and diminish inflammation.

Dr. Sonali Khandelwal, MD, a rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center, notes that people often report improved joint comfort after eliminating gluten, even if they don’t have celiac disease.

High-Salt Foods:

Consuming excessive amounts of salty foods or sodium may elevate the risk of autoimmune diseases like inflammatory arthritis, according to a 2017 study. Americans, on average, consume nearly twice the recommended daily sodium intake.

High-sodium foods, including fast food, pizza, deli meats, condiments, and frozen dinners, are linked to increased inflammation and a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to Verywell Health. A 2015 study also associated high sodium intake with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Added Sugars:

Research indicates that consuming added sugars, prevalent in soda, candy, pastries, and dairy desserts, can worsen arthritis symptoms. A 2017 survey revealed that sugar was identified as a top trigger for arthritis symptoms, with 12.7% attributing symptoms to sugar and 12.4% pointing to desserts.

Excessive sugar consumption prompts the body to produce more inflammatory proteins called cytokines, exacerbating inflammation, particularly problematic for individuals with arthritis who already have elevated cytokine levels.

Highly Processed Foods:

Ultra-processed foods, such as fast food, breakfast cereal, and baked goods, often containing refined grains, added sugar, preservatives, fructose, and potentially inflammatory ingredients, may exacerbate arthritis symptoms. These foods are known to be rich in Dietary advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which induce oxidative stress and increase inflammation.

Items like hot dogs, American cheese, mayonnaise, salty snacks, and fried bacon fall into this category. The frequent consumption of highly processed foods is associated with obesity and increased insulin resistance, both of which can act as triggers for arthritis, according to a 2018 study.

Ashlie is a senior reporter for the TosBos News. She covers live and breaking news from 6 am every day. Ashlie joined the M.E.N. in 2019 having previously worked for Cavendish Press news agency.


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