What Foods Should You Avoid If You Have Osteoarthritis?

Organic Lifestyle

Osteoarthritis is a joint disorder and is marked by symptoms such as joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Inflammation may act as a risk factor in enabling cartilage deterioration and not allowing it to be repaired (1).

It is a degenerative disease that arises because of the deterioration of cartilage that covers the ends of the bones where a joint is formed (2). A healthy cartilage allows the bones to move smoothly against each other and it also functions as a shock absorber.

 Because of the breakdown of the cartilage pain, swelling and deformity of the joint occurs (3). The disease advances slowly but may ultimately lead to joint failure and disability (4). In some cases, it becomes difficult for the affected person to do simple daily chores or even move around. The quality of life they lead deteriorates.

Excessive weight is one of the main contributing risk for osteoarthritis. Oxidative stress is another reason for joint degeneration in osteoarthritis (5).

A diet planned for a person affected with osteoarthritis should therefore be devoid of weight gaining foods and decrease oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant rich foods.

Foods to be avoided in a diet for a person with osteoarthritis

1.Sugary foods and drinks

Eat foods that are nutrient dense but not calorie dense. Sugary foods and soft drinks are mostly energy dense. And they make us put on weight which is a risk factor for osteoarthritis.Avoid desserts, pastries, cakes and sugar sweetened soft drinks.

2. Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol may be a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. It is probably because alcohol is pro-inflammatory and causes oxidative stress (6). Oxidative stress if one of the risk factors of osteoarthritis. Alcohol consumption has several side effects, it is a good idea to keep it to the minimum or avoid altogether.

3. Salty foods

Excess salt intake is linked to adiposity and inflammation and it is not dependent on energy intake and sugary soft drink consumption (7). Increased weight has an aggravating effect on osteoarthritis. Salt has water retention capacity as salt tends to hold water (8) Since there is already swelling at the joints salty foods add to it.

It is better to limit salt intake and avoid excess intake of salty foods. Processed and canned foods, pickles, snacks contain plenty of salt, avoid them

4. Saturated fats

Reduce the saturated fat containing foods as much as possible as saturated fats are said to be pro-inflammatory (9). Osteoarthritis is a disorder which involves inflammation at the affected joint and saturated fats further increase inflammation. Avoid saturated fat containing foods such as butter, full fat dairy products and red meats.

5.Trans fats

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which inflammation occurs at the site of the joint (5). Tran fats tend to cause inflammation (9). Higher intake of trans fats in premenopausal women may be associated with higher levels of oxidative stress (10). Trans fatty acids increase inflammation and oxidative stress in mice, and they contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. Oxidative stress is a risk factor for osteoarthritis too, therefore it is better to avoid trans-fat containing foods (11).

Oxidative stress and inflammation are risk factors for developing osteoarthritis. It makes sense to cut down on trans fats in the diet. They may be present in milk, meat and butter. They are also found in foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as shortening, margarine and bakery foods.

6. Refined flour products

All the fiber and antioxidant containing constituents of whole grains are removed while refining. Fiber is important for weight management and antioxidants are necessary for reducing oxidative stress.It is advisable to add whole grain products compared to refined flour products in a diet for a person with osteoarthritis. Start using whole grain flour instead of refined white flour.

Final word

A diet for a person suffering from osteoarthritis should focus on three points apart from being a balanced diet. It should not make the person gain weight, it should not contain any pro-inflammatory foods and it should have plenty of antioxidants.




  1. Goldring, M. B. and Otero, M. (2011) Inflammation in osteoarthritis, Current opinion in rheumatology. Vol.23 (5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3937875/

  1. National Institutes of Health (2018). https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=55

  1. Cleveland Clinic (2014). Osteoarthritis: What You Need to Know. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5599-osteoarthritis-what-you-need- to-know

  1. Litwic, A., Edwards, M.H., Dennison, E.M. and Cooper, C. (2013) Epidemiology and burden of osteoarthritis, British Medical Bulletin. Vol.105 (1)https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/105/1/185/271633

  1. Chin, K. Y. and Ima-Nirwana, S. (2018) The Role of Vitamin E in Preventing and Treating Osteoarthritis – A Review of the Current Evidence, Frontiers in pharmacology. Vol.9(946). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6113565/

  2.    Kc, R., Voigt, R., Li, X., Forsyth, C. B., Ellman, M. B., Summa, K. C., Forsyth, C.B., Keshavarzian, A., Turek, F.W., Kim, J.S. and Im, H. J. (2015) Induction of Osteoarthritis-like Pathologic Changes by Chronic Alcohol Consumption in an Experimental Mouse Model, Arthritis & rheumatology (Hoboken, N.J.). Vol.67 (6). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4823794/

  3. Zhu, Z., Li, J., Ruan, G., Wang, G., Huang, C. and Ding, C. (2018) Investigational drugs for the treatment of osteoarthritis, an update on recent developments, Expert Opin Investig Drugs.27(11). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30345826

  4. Upadhyay, S., Shrivastava, S., Kumar, D., Chaturvedi, S., Singh, S.P. and Khinchi, M.P. (2017) A Review on water retention, Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Vol. 5 (3). https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0835/9deeefe50ab7cc919bf6d86440af90dbe232.pdf

  5. Estadella, , Nascimento, C.M.P.O., Oyama, L.M., Ribeiro, E.B., Dâmaso, A. R. and Piano, A.(2013) Lipotoxicity: Effects of Dietary Saturated and Transfatty Acids, Mediators of Inflammation. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/137579/

  6. Anderson, C., Milne, G. L., Sandler, D. P. and Nichols, H. B. (2016) Oxidative stress in relation to diet and physical activity among premenopausal women, The British journal of nutrition. Vol. 116 (8). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241099/

  7.   Monguchi, T., Hara, T., Hasokawa, M., Nakajima, H., Mori, K., Toh, R., Irino, Y., Ishida, T., Hirata, K. I. and Shinohara, M.(2017) Excessive intake of trans fatty acid accelerates atherosclerosis through promoting inflammation and oxidative stress in a mouse model of hyperlipidemia, J Cardiol. Vol. 70 (2). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28254384

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