Nutritionally, arthritis poses a serious threat to patients. Studies have shown that those with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are at a natural risk for malnutrition. Although the current research focuses specifically on Rheumatoid Arthritis, malnutrition must also be considered seriously by patients suffering from other types of arthritis because the risk factors revolve around chronic inflammation, pain and swelling resulting in difficulties purchasing, preparing and processing food.
The first factor leading to lack of nutrition in arthritis patients is the development of cytokines resulting from chronic inflammation. When cytokines develop in response to chronic inflammation, the patient’s resting metabolic rate increases and the patient therefore requires more calories and protein. An additional risk to arthritis nutrition is that patients may have difficulty with mobility, making it difficult to buy and cook food due to painful swelling. This may lead to patients eating less frequently or eating only certain types of pre-prepared foods that lack proper nutritional content.
Studies have found arthritis patients are often deficient in Vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, zinc, silenium, and Vitamins D, B6, B12 and E. The best source for these vitamins and minerals is food; however, if the nutrition of arthritis patients is lacking as a result of diet, supplements may be vital in preventing malnutrition. In particular, Vitamin E and selenium may decrease the free radical damage to the linings of the joints, which may in turn ease swelling and joint pain. Calcium is recommended to prevent osteoperosis, of which arthritis patients are at an increased risk. To promote balanced nutrition, arthritis patients are advised to work with their doctors to determine the appropriate dosages of each.