Eat Right for Arthritis

Quality of life can especially improve for patients with different forms of arthritis, adds Joel M. Kremer, MD, director of research at the center for rheumatology at Albany Medical College in New York.

“A healthy diet typically means fewer calories. And simply taking in fewer calories will turn down the gas on inflammation, resulting in fewer flare-ups," he says.

Eating well to live longer has the added bonus of helping people shed pounds and avoid obesity, Kremer says.

"Obesity is associated with premature osteoarthritis of the knees and hips. And people with RA who have a higher BMI tend to respond less well to their medications and to have worse disease," he says.

Also, obesity can raise the levels of uric acid in the blood and may increase the risk of gout. Recent research suggests that the reverse is also true – losing weight may lower uric acid levels and reduce gout risk, Kremer adds.

Turning poor dietary habits around isn't easy, the experts acknowledge. "But even small changes" – substituting whole grain toast for a croissant in the morning, for example – "can have a huge impact on your health and longevity," says study co-author Nadine Sahyoun, PhD, a registered dietitian and associate professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Maryland.