DietWeight Loss

Low Carb Diet for Arthritis Pain Relief

A ground breaking study found that those who followed a low carbohydrate diet for arthritis experienced less pain

A ground breaking study found that those who followed a low carbohydrate diet for arthritis experienced less pain compared with participants who followed the low fat diet or continued with their normal eating habits.

The pain associated with arthritis affects about 10 percent of men and 13 percent of women aged 50 and above. Osteoarthritis can be a debilitating condition, affecting day to day activities and in some cases may even lead to depression 

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Usual treatments for pain can be harmful or invasive 

Doctors usually prescribe pain medication, such as acetaminophen, opioids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to help to alleviate pain symptoms. Different surgical interventions – such as knee replacement - are treatment options for later stages of the progression of osteoarthritis.  

It is common knowledge that many of the pain medications cause unwanted side effects such as stomach problems or even ulcers, heartburn, liver or kidney issues or high blood pressure, just to mention the most commonly occurring ones!  

The study that could change everything 

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) were curious about the possibility of supporting pain management with diet and tested the effectiveness of two alternative diets: one low in carbohydrates, and the other diet low in fat.  

Adults over the age of 60 with knee osteoarthritis volunteered for the study. They were allocated to different groups. The first group followed a diet low in carbohydrates; the second group followed a low fat diet, and the third group continued to eat as they normally would for 12 weeks. The researchers assessed the volunteers’ pain and depression levels every 3 weeks. They also tested serum levels for oxidative stress markers – oxidative stress markers are signs of cellular and extracellular damages – before and after the start of the research project. 

The results were conclusive: the participants who followed the low fat diet did lose some weight. But those who followed the low carbohydrate diet experienced notably less pain compared with participants who followed the low fat diet or continues with their normal eating habits. Participants in the low carbohydrate diet also showed reduced oxidative stress as measured in their blood markers. 

“Diet will never ‘cure’ pain, but our work proves that it can reduce pain to the point where it no longer interferes with daily activities.” Said Robert Sorge, PhD, assistant professor at UAB and lead author of the study. 

Low carb foods in a diet for arthritis

The low carb foods that were used in the study included the following: 

  • Lean meats, such as sirloin, chicken breast and pork
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Butter
  • Olive, rapeseed and coconut oil
  • Tofu and Tempeh
Foods such as avos, sardines, blueberries, coconut and kale are good to include in a diet for arthritis
Low carb diet reduces osteoarthritis symptoms 

Following a low carb diet could help you in many ways. First of all, it can reduce osteoarthritis symptoms as shown in the above mentioned study. Secondly, it will help you to reduce your weight, if this is an issue, and as a result there will be less impact and “wear and tear” placed on the osteoarthritic joints. Last but certainly not least learning to cook alternatives and to introduce new healthy foods into your diet is so much fun!  

Check out our wonderful healthy recipes for your inspiration. You may also be interested in the free 14 Day Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Remember to keep reading and always be kind to your joints!


Dr Eszter Tánczos Olver

Medical doctor with qualifications from the Universities of Semmelweis in Budapest, Hungary and Albert Ludwig´s in Freiburg, Germany. Dr Tánczos Olver has over 20 years of experience in orthopedic medical innovation and technologies. Dr Tánczos Olver is an expert in the fields of regenerative medicine, medical technology and biotechnology. Dr. med
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