The anti-inflammatory benefits of a vegan diet

Changing your diet may seem extreme, but for a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, it’s worth considering. Eating sugary foods, processed meats, and not enough fruits and vegetables eventually leads to inflammation, which can cause joint pain and swelling. Studies suggest that adopting a vegan diet is the way to go. But how long should you stick to the vegan diet before you see results? You might not want to. However, new research reveals that a vegan diet has anti-inflammatory benefits for reducing the painful symptoms of arthritis.

Exciting research

A recent study published in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine examined the impact of diet on arthritis pain and severity. Study participants included 44 adults previously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic condition found primarily in the small joints of the hands or feet that causes pain, stiffness, and loss or reduction in range of motion).

Researchers from the Committee of Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) randomly assigned study participants to one of two groups: the diet phase group and the supplementation phase group. During the first four weeks of the study, the diet phase group followed an exclusively vegan diet.

After the first four weeks, the diet phase group continued on a vegan diet for another three weeks, eliminating extra foods containing ingredients like sugar, soy products and alcohol. During the remaining nine weeks of the initial 16-week dieting phase, foods that were eliminated in weeks five, six and seven were gradually and individually reintroduced to participants.

On the other hand, the supplementation phase group followed an unrestricted diet for the entire 16 weeks of the first phase. In addition, they took a daily supplement (placebo) issued by the researchers, which contained small amounts of alpha-linolenic acid and vitamin E. The authors thought that this placebo could help reduce inflammation.

In the second phase of the study, which lasted another 16 weeks, both groups switched diets; the diet phase group resumed a non-vegan diet and received a daily placebo, and the supplementation phase followed a strictly vegan diet.

The results

Researchers found that on average, the Disease Activity Score-28 (DAS28) of the 44 study participants decreased by two points during the vegan diet phase, leading to significantly lower levels of joint pain. lower. In the placebo phase, the DAS28 decreased by less than half a point.

Additionally, the average number of swollen joints decreased by almost four points, from seven to 3.3 in the vegan phase. This number fell from 4.7 to five in the placebo phase.

It’s clear that the vegan diet has worked wonders in relieving the painful symptoms of arthritis, but the benefits don’t stop there. Researchers also found that participants lost an average of 14 pounds on the vegan diet. This is significant compared to the weight of two pounds Gain they experienced during the placebo phase. Additionally, participants’ cholesterol levels dropped during the vegan diet.

Neal Barnard, MD, president of PCRM and lead author of the study, says a diet-focused approach can be helpful for people with arthritis. “The [vegan] the diet is safe, healthy and easy to do,” he says. “Arthritis medications cost tens of thousands of dollars and have side effects, so if some people can get relief from their symptoms without them, that’s great.”

How to start eating vegan?

A vegan diet consists of eating only fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts (rather than animal products such as dairy, eggs, meat or fish). It could be a big change in your daily eating habits, but Dr. Barnard notes that you shouldn’t hit it until you’ve tried it: “Most people who eat a healthy diet [vegan] finding out that they feel so good – they’re losing weight and lowering their cholesterol, as well as getting pain relief – they want to stick with it.

To help you get started on the right foot, he shares two basic rules for getting lots of nutrients from a plant-based diet:

  • Build your meals based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. “That could mean a bean chili instead of a meat chili, a veggie burger instead of a meat burger, or topping your spaghetti with tomato sauce instead of meat sauce,” he says. .
  • Make sure you have a vitamin B12 supplement. “It’s important for everyone, for healthy nerves and healthy blood,” he adds.

Dr. Barnard also highlights PCRM’s free, non-commercial app called 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It organizes meal plans, recipes, and plant-based grocery lists to make your life easier. You can download the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart app at iOS and Android devices.

Considering adopting a vegan diet for its anti-inflammatory and arthritis pain-relieving benefits? Speak with your doctor before making any diet changes. This helps you get the most out of a healthy diet.