For Women Under 55, a Healthy Diet May Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Proving once again that you are what you eat, a study published in Annals of Rheumatic Diseases found that women under 55 with healthy eating habits had a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease involving chronic joint inflammation. Researchers looked at data from 76,597 women, aged 30 to 55, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study, and data from 93,392 women, aged 25 to 42, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II. All of the women did not have rheumatoid arthritis or other connective tissue diseases when they enrolled in these studies. Every two years for an average of 21.6 years, researchers collected information regarding the women’s health, environmental exposures, and lifestyle habits, including their dietary patterns. Then, researchers scored the quality of the women’s diets using the 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index—a measure of how closely a person’s diet follows the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. After comparing these scores to the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis throughout the study, researchers found that:

  • In women 55 and under, those with the highest diet scores (healthiest eating patterns) had a 33% lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared with those with the lowest diet scores (unhealthiest eating patterns).
  • In women over 55, however, diet scores were not associated with the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Other research has demonstrated the plethora of benefits associated with eating well, and this study adds to the evidence, providing yet another reason to eat healthily. If you’re unsure where to start, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans can help. Following the current guidelines will ensure you get the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish in your diet, and help put a cap on foods that, when eaten in excess, can contribute to poor health, such as added sugars and red meat.

Source: Annals of Rheumatic Diseases

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