Weight loss and exercise help ease painful knees

By Lesley Dobson , Thursday 26 September 2013

Cutting back on your food intake and taking regular exercise could make all the difference when you’re suffering from the pain and movement restriction of osteoarthritis in your knees.

Man on treadmillThe study found that a combination of diet and exercise reduced knee pain
A new study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found that when overweight and obese adults combine intensive diet with exercise, it can lead to a reduction in knee pain and better joint function after 18 months. The results from this approach were better than either just dieting or just exercising.

Stephen P. Messier, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University, North Carolina, and colleagues, carried out the study. Its purpose was to find out whether reducing body weight by 10% or more, achieved through diet, with or without exercise, would reduce joint loading (the force put on a weight-bearing joint) and inflammation and improve clinical outcomes (the result for the patient) more than exercise alone.

The study started with 454 overweight and obese adults (BMI 0f 27 – 41) aged 55 years or more. All had pain and radiographic knee osteoarthritis). They were divided into three groups – intensive diet-induced weight loss plus exercise, intensive diet-induced weight loss, or exercise alone. Out of the original 454 participants 399 completed the study, which lasted 18 months.

Among the study’s findings:


  • The average weight loss was highest in the diet and exercise group, then the diet only group, and finally the exercise group.
  • The diet and exercise group had a reduction in knee pain, better function on their knee joints, faster walking speed, and better physical health-related quality of life.
  • Those who were in the diet and exercise and diet groups had larger reductions on Interleukin 6 levels than those in the exercise group. (Interleukin 6 is a measure of inflammation).
  • The authors wrote; “The findings from this trial suggest that intensive weight loss may have both anti-inflammatory and biomechanical benefits; when combining weight loss with exercise, patients can safely achieve a mean long-term weight loss of more than 10 percent, with an associated improvement in symptoms greater than with either intervention alone.”

Professor Arthur Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK welcomed the study’s finding, adding: “One of our clearest messages to people with osteoarthritis of the knee is to lose weight if you’re overweight and to keep as physically fit and active as possible, as research has shown that the benefits can be very great.”

“This new research also interestingly suggests that intensive weight-loss may reduce inflammation as well as reducing pressure on the joint. Increasingly arthritis is thought of as being an inflammatory disease as well as a condition of cartilage wear and tear, and we are looking at ways to address this, in order to reduce pain and swelling.”

What you eat counts too


An earlier study, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, in August, found that including broccoli in your diet could help to prevent or slow down the destruction of cartilage in the joints that is associated with osteoarthritis.

Sulforaphane is the vital ingredient. This compound is released when you eat cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage, but especially broccoli.

The results from the laboratory study found that mice fed a diet high in sulforaphane had less cartilage damage and osteoarthritis that those that weren’t. The compound works because it blocks the enzymes that cause the destruction of joints by stopping a key molecule known to cause inflammation. Still not keen on broccoli? Well previous studies have suggested that sulforaphane also has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Useful website


Arthritis Research UK - www.arthritisresearchuk.org

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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