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Arthritis: diet and exercises for recovery

Many claims have been made about the links between arthritis, diet and dietary supplements. Some have been demonstrated to be effective, while some should be treated with caution

Mature woman swimming in the sea
Non-weight bearing exercise, such as swimming or cycling, is beneficial for people with arthritis

The Arthritis Research Campaign warns that excessive claims about the value of particular diets in treating arthritis should be taken with a - proverbial - pinch of salt.

"People with arthritis desperately want to help themselves by finding a diet that suits them, but there is simply no quick-fix, miracle diet that will cure arthritis," says Fergus Logan, ARC's chief executive. "Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and at least two portions of oily fish a week is beneficial, but our commonsense advice is that people should expect minor improvements rather than a miracle."

One way in which you can use diet to help if you have arthritis is to lose weight if you need to. Being overweight puts a strain on joints and is a major risk factor in developing arthritis of the knee.

While many supplements and foods are unproven as arthritis treatments, there is some evidence in favour of a few. These include:

Omega 3 oils

Found in oily fish and cod liver oil, these have been shown to slow the destruction of joint cartilage.

Omega 6 oils

These, too, help the body to control inflammation, and can be found in evening primrose oil and starflower oil.

Olive oil

The Arthritis Research Campaign says some studies have shown this to be helpful to people with rheumatoid arthritis, although the reasons for this are unknown.


This supplement has been demonstrated to be as effective as some medical painkillers in helping to relieve symptoms in people with knee osteoarthritis.


American research suggested ginger extract to be more effective than a placebo in treating osteoarthritis pain; however, the study was not considered conclusive.


This supplement has been shown to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Devil's claw

Which? Magazine reports that two studies have shown this anti-inflammatory supplement to be effective in reducing pain.


A herbal mixture made in Germany. According to Which? trials show that this is effective in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Vitamin C

Research into diet suggests that vitamin C may reduce the risk of developing some forms of arthritis.

Green tea

Green tea may play a preventive role in the development of arthritis, as it contains compounds that block the enzyme that destroys cartilage.


Non-weight bearing exercise, such as swimming or cycling, is beneficial for people with arthritis, but more 'alternative' exercise, such as yoga, can help too.Whatever activity you do, it's important to be aware of the right pace for you. "Swimming can help, as can cycling, particularly if you have bad knees," says Jane Tadman of the Arthritis Research Campaign.

“If you can find a yoga class that isn’t too physical, it can be hugely beneficial. The main thing is to keep as mobile as you can, because if you don’t it can lead to a vicious circle.”


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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.