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Greek Diet Eases Rheumatoid Arthritis

Improves Physical Function, Vitality


Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints -- and other parts of the body in more severe cases -- leading to inflammation and pain that eventually erodes bone and soft tissue. It affects more than 2 million Americans, most of them women.

In this study, which lasted only three months, researchers studied people with rheumatoid arthritis, average age 58, who had the disease for at least two years. Those on the Mediterranean diet first began to experience relief after six weeks (although their cholesterol levels dropped after three) and improvement continued throughout the study. In addition to being provided with meals, those patients also received nutritional counseling on how to cook more healthfully. They lost an average of seven pounds by study's end.

Meanwhile, those on a diet richer in dairy foods and red meat -- typical in Sweden as well as the U.S. -- also received prepared meals, but no counseling. They lost no weight and reported no measurable symptom relief. None of the study participants in either group had previously followed the Mediterranean or a vegetarian-based diet.

"The results of this intervention program indicate that a Cretan Mediterranean diet suppresses disease activity in patients who have stable and modestly active rheumatoid arthritis," write the researchers. "Thus, by eating a Mediterranean diet for three months, patients with RA can obtain better physical function and increase their activity. In theory, even a minor effect that is persistent and accumulates over time might be important."

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