London, Feb. 19 (Reuters): A Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables, can relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, scientists said today.
Although a Mediterranean diet is usually recommended to reduce the risk of heart disease, Dr Lars Skoldstam, of Visby Hospital in Sweden, found it reduced the pain and improved the physical function of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
After three months on the diet, RA patients lost about 3 kg in weight, had lower cholesterol levels and less pain in their joints than a control group patients who did not change their eating habits.
“The treated group felt significantly improved compared to the controls after three months with this diet,” Skoldstam said.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks cartilage in the joints.
It affects about two per cent of the population but more women suffer from it than men. Skoldstam, who reported his findings in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, believes there are connections between rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
A study released earlier this week by scientists in the US showed women suffering from RA may face up to double the risk of heart attack than those without the disorder.
“There are connections, anti-inflammation possibilities from weight reduction and from this kind of diet, that I believe are favourable for rheumatoid arthritis,” Skoldstam added.
Inflammation is an important factor in RA and doctors also believe it could be a component in heart disease.
Skoldstam called for further research and larger studies into the impact of a Mediterranean diet on RA patients.