What are antioxidants and do they help with arthritis?
Oxidative reactions are useful to the extent that they help remove damaged and diseased tissue. However, these oxidation reactions also lead to the formation of free radicals. Free radical reactions p...
Antioxidants are substances which help protect the body from harmful oxidation reactions caused by free radicals.
Among the many vitamins, minerals, supplements and food substances which act as antioxidants are:
Co-enzyme Q 10
Pine Bark Extracts
Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
While the exact role of antioxidants in treating arthritis is still controversial, there are a few that appear to have some suggestive data supporting their use.
Two vitamins which may play a major role are vitamin C and vitamin E. Preliminary research and anecdotal evidence suggest that vitamin C may help relieve joint pain, stiffness, and swelling of osteoarthritis. Vitamin C is a critical ingredient in the body's production of collagen, a protein needed for healthy bone, cartilage, and connective tissue. In a preliminary study involving 640 people, published in the journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism, Boston researchers reported that a high intake of antioxidant micronutrients -- especially vitamin C -- was associated with a three-fold reduced risk for cartilage loss and disease progression among people with osteoarthritis in their knees. The most common form of chronic arthritis, osteoarthritis is a disease of cartilage deterioration within the joints that afflicts more than 16 million Americans, especially the elderly."
Vitamin C is an important co-factor in protein synthesis, and, theoretically, it could be the case that maintaining a certain baseline level of this micronutrient is needed to help repair cartilage tissue," according to lead author of the article. Timothy E. McAlindon, an assistant professor of medicine at the Boston University Medical Center in Boston.
(McAlindon" T.E., et al. Do antioxidant micronutrients protect against the development and progression of knee arthritis? Arthritis and Rheumatism 39(4):648-656. 1996).
Other researchers have also suggested that antioxidants such as vitamin E may have a protective role in arthritis.
(Heliovaara, M. et al. "Serum antioxidants and risk of rheumatoid arthritis," Annals of Rheumatic Disease 53(1):51-53, 1994).
(L Packer. Protective role of vitamin E in biological systems. Am J Clin Nutr.1991; 53: 1050S-1055S).
On the flip side are some researchers who have demonstrated that vitamin E is not helpful for arthritis.
(C Brand, J Snaddon, M Bailey, and F Cicuttini. Vitamin E is ineffective for symptomatic relief of knee osteoarthritis: a six month double blind, randomised, placebo controlled study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2001 October; 60(10): 946949).
(Wluka AE, Stuckey S, Brand C, et al. Supplementary vitamin E does not affect the loss of cartilage volume in knee osteoarthritis: a 2 year double blind randomized placebo controlled study. J Rheumatol. 2002;29:25852591).
Who do you believe? That decision is up to you.
As with anything, its important to make sure that you, as a patient, follow proper dietary guidelines. Currently, there appears to be more data in support of the use of antioxidant vitamins than there is against their use.
Foods which are rich in vitamin C are:
Foods which contain generous amounts of vitamin E are:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Wei, MD, FACP FACR is a rheumatologist. For more info: Arthritis Treatment