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Diet, Not Exercise, Will Save You From Knee Pain

osteoarthritis, knee pain, diet, nutrition

The first line of defense to stopping knee pain in the obese is to lose weight. While weight loss may provide some relief, how you lose the weight plays a major role in whether or not knee cartilage further disintegrates.


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Osteoarthritis is Degenerative But Can Be Slowed

A new MRI study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) has shown that obese people who lose a substantial amount of weight can significantly slow down the degeneration of their knee cartilage, but only if they lose weight through diet and exercise or diet alone.
Obesity is a major risk factor for many conditions. One symptom is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that affects more than a third of adults over the age of 60, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The knee joint is a common site of osteoarthritis, and in many people, the condition progresses until total knee replacement becomes necessary. Once cartilage is lost, the disease cannot be reversed.

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Diet Alone Can Halt Cartilage Loss

Since cartilage loss cannot be reversed when degeneration begins. Therefore, it is important for people who show early signs of osteoarthritis to slow the degeneration of cartilage. Weight loss has given some relief but to slow down cartilage degeneration in overweight and obese individuals, it was unclear if the method made a difference. Researchers looked cartilage degeneration and joint abnormalities over the course of 96 months in overweight and obese individuals who maintained a stable weight and who lost weight using various weight-loss regimens.

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The researchers studied 760 overweight men and women with a body mass index of greater than 25 who had osteoarthritis. The patients either had mild to moderate osteoarthritis or risk factors for the disease. Patients were divided into a group of 380 patients who lost weight, and a control group of 380 patients who lost no weight. The weight-loss group was further categorized by weight loss method: diet and exercise, diet alone and exercise alone. The researchers used MRI to quantify knee osteoarthritis at the beginning of the study, at 48 months and at 96 months, respectively.

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Diet More Effective Than Exercise

Results showed that cartilage degeneration was significantly lower in the weight loss group, compared to the control group over the 96 months. However, this finding was only present among the patients who lost weight through diet and exercise or diet alone. Although patients who only exercised lost as much weight as patients who dieted alone or dieted and exercised, weight loss through exercise alone showed no significant difference in cartilage degeneration, compared to the group who lost no weight. Therefore, exercise as a regimen in order to lose weight in overweight and obese adults may not be as beneficial to the knee joint as weight loss regimens involving diet.

Sources: "Is Weight Loss Associated with Less Progression of Changes in Knee Articular Cartilage among Obese and Overweight Patients as Assessed with MR Imaging over 48 Months? Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative" Radiology, 2017.

Journal reference: Radiology