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Osteoarthritis is a joint disease caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone, resulting in joint pain and stiffness. It’s estimated that around 33.6 per cent of people over the age of 65 are affected by osteoarthritis, meaning that many of you suffer from this kind of joint pain every day.

A new study published earlier this year in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases has shown that consuming higher levels of fibre can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis pain, especially in the knees. The report looked at datasets from two separate long-term studies. The first study was the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI), which has been tracking the health of around 5000 men and women with, or at risk of, osteoarthritis since 2004, in an attempt to determine risk factors for the condition. The second set of data was taken from the Framingham Offspring study, which has been tracking the health of more than 1200 adult children from the original Framingham Heart Study since 1971. Those in the OAI study averaged around 15g of fibre per day, while those from Framingham were closer to 19g daily.

Information was collected from both studies – yearly for four years in the OAI; and after an average of nine years for Framingham – on symptoms and x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis. Analysis of this data showed that those with the highest intake of fibre had a lower risk of painful knee osteoarthritis. For those in the OAI (remember, an average of 15g of fibre each day), the risk was 30 per cent lower compared to those with the lowest intake of fibre. In the Framingham study (19g daily), that jumped to a 61 per cent lower risk. Interestingly, the symptoms did not match the x-ray results.

It’s important to remember that this is an observational study, not an experiment, so there can’t be any firm conclusions drawn about a cause and effect. But the results indicate “a consistent protective association between total fibre intake and symptom-related” osteoarthritis.

How much fibre do you eat every day?

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