Tag Archives: osteoarthritis

Low calorie diet can help arthritis sufferers

EATING a simple low-calorie diet for just four months is the key to “transforming” Britain’s arthritis crisis, experts claim.

Tens of thousands of sufferers could be spared from undergoing devastating knee replacements every year by following an easy diet plan.

Experts have found that people who lost just 10 per cent of their body weight had a 30 per cent increase in their quality of life, ability to move and reduction in pain.

And now one of the country’s leading obesity researchers, who has helped trial the rapid, safe, weight loss programme in arthritis sufferers in Denmark, says it should become a priority front-line treatment for obese patients with knee osteoarthritis in the UK.

Obesity is directly fuelling the massive increase in the number of people blighted by osteoarthritis and 60,000 knee replacements are carried out each year leaving thousands housebound.

Costing at least £5,000 per operation, the three-month diet plan could not only save the NHS millions every year with additional healthcare costs, but transform the lives of crippled patients, according to Professor Anthony Leeds from the University of Surrey.

He said: “In the UK with an ageing, heavier population, osteoarthritis is going to be more of a problem and cause more personal suffering as well as increased healthcare costs.

“To apply a simple, straight-forward weight loss solution – which is now proven to be effective – should be a major contribution to reducing NHS costs and improving quality of life for thousands of people with osteoarthritis.”

Prof Leeds has been trialling the diet plan with professor of rheumatology Henning Bliddal who is director of the Parker Arthritis Institute at Copenhagen’s Frederiksberg Hospital, among Danish arthritis patients.

He said the rising impact obesity is having on arthritis-driven knee replacement operations is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

He said: “It seems that the problem of people being more and more obese will impact on the knees over the years and people as people are getting older we are facing a huge problem. We think 60,000 knee replacements is just the tip of the iceberg.

“This is the sort of programme that people can understand and follow easily. We can make people with bad knees and no real chance of exercising stick to a diet programme for years and maintain weight loss which is enough to improve their life quality.”



The trial used the Cambridge Weight Plan which was developed by Dr Alan Howard at Cambridge University as a method of rapidly shedding weight.

It is a low calorie or extremely low calorie diet which sees people have branded shakes, bars, soups and porridge.

The products are used on their own initially for fast weight loss and can then be used in tandem with normal meals for a more gradual weight loss or to maintain weight loss.

The programmes range from 415 calories a day to more than 1500.

The researchers selected 192 elderly patients with knee problems that prevented exercise.

They all received either an 810 calorie, or very low calorie (fewer than 801 calories) liquid formula diet for eight weeks, followed by a 1,200 calorie diet for a further eight weeks.

They were then randomised into one of three groups for maintenance for the next year.

Patients found rapid weight loss motivational and successful and experienced improvement in pain and function with the weight loss.

A 10 per cent weight loss produced a 30 per cent improvement in quality of life.

But Prof Bliddal said that because this 30 per cent alleviated some of their worst issues, the impact was all the more significant.

From being house-bound, some were walking, climbing stairs, visiting friends and grandchildren and going shopping.

One wheelchair-bound patient was literally able to walk again.

Many of the patients were able to maintain their weight loss for at least three more years by replacing just one meal with a food substitute from the diet plan.

Interestingly, they also found that rather than surgery helping people to exercise, lose weight and transform their lives, the opposite was in fact true.

Often freed from the pain, patients actually gained more weight and so needed another knee replacement even sooner.

They have shown that following the 16-week plan and three year maintenance programme can either prevent the need for knee surgery completely or in the very least delay it for at least four years.

Prof Bliddal said: “In the worst case scenario, some patients may have to undergo knee replacement in the future. But losing weight would definitely delay that by at least three to four years. Lsoing weight will also make any new knees last better.”

Earlier this year, research by the charity Arthritis Care showed that knee and hip operations in England and Wales could be costing the nation £1.6billion – and rising – as the obesity crisis grows.

The charity told MPs that around 8.5 million Britons have osteoarthritis, and 70 per cent of people living with arthritis experience constant pain despite medication.

Already a quarter of UK adults are obese and most people with osteoarthritis are overweight or obese.

It is thought that at least of the 60,000 knee operations carried out that at least 48,000 are on people who are overweight or obese.

UK National Arthritis Week

Painful and stiff joints don’t really describe the discomfort that arthritis sufferers experience every day. It can make the everyday tasks that most of us take for granted – cleaning your teeth or making a cup of tea – incredibly difficult. And the bigger things in life, like working, driving a car or cooking, often become impossible.

Arthritis is in the news at the moment because it is National Arthritis Week (October 12 to 19). A total of 8.5 million people in the UK have arthritis. Just over half of these have osteoarthritis of the knee, the most common form of this condition. Another four million have osteoarthritis in the hip, ankle and hand. They all struggle daily with the pain it causes and the limitations it poses on their lives.

Arthritis Research UK funds research to help improve knowledge on the prevention and treatment of arthritis. One of the current studies they are funding is research into whether a heart drug called spironolactone can help ease the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. This drug stops the body producing a chemical that causes inflammation, as well as increasing production of one of the body’s natural steroids.

Another trial being funded by Arthritis Research UK is testing how effective the drug methotrexate is in reducing the pain of osteoarthritis in the knee.

Methotrexate is used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis. While it is a different condition to osteoarthritis, they both involve inflammation. According to Professor Philip Conaghan, from the Leeds Institute of Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Medicine, and leader of the study, recent studies have suggested that inflammation causes pain in osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Exercise is a vital part of treatment if you have OA, and can help keep you mobile, improves muscle strength and help you lose weight. Dr Nikki Walsh of the University of the West of England in Bristol, and Professor Mike Hurley of St George’s University in London, have created, and tested the effectiveness of a six-week exercise programme designed for older people with knee pain.



The results of the study (called ESCAPE) show that the exercise, self-management and active coping strategies in the programme were effective. They also found that it led to improvements in pain, general quality of life, anxiety and depression. The team hopes to have an online version of ESCAPE ready for testing in the next year.

About osteoarthritis

*Osteoarthritis tends to appear from your late 40s.

*It is more common and severe in women, especially when in the knee and hand joints.

*Being overweight increases your chance of developing osteoarthritis, as does having a serious injury or operation on a joint. Arthritis UK says that an obese adult is 14 times more likely to suffer osteoarthritis. However, even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference.

*Taking some of the load off your affected knee can help prevent osteoarthritis getting worse. Using walking poles or walking with a cane can make a difference.