The Fatty and Not the Fat

Comfort for those who purchase their Magnums in the frozen section

Posted Sep 16, 2014

We have all heard about the literal and figurative impact the obesity epidemic has on the weight-bearing joints: early and relentless degenerative arthritis, as our knees and hips struggle against that out-of-range Body Mass Index, cartilage deteriorating along with the will power to try another diet, worsening knee pain making exercise less desirable, and less feasible.

Obesity has always been considered one of the primary risk factors for osteoarthritis, but the reasoning as to why is not as tidy as one might assume, for it does not explain why significant arthritis is also found in the hands and other joints of overweight patients--joints that do not bear weight.

But it could be that eating fat is worse for your joints than the mechanical effects of being fat.

The results of a study published recently in the “Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases” appeared to indicate that unhealthy dietary fats indeed are more important than mechanical factors, at least in mice with injured knees. These osteoarthritic mice were fed one of three high-fat diets: one rich in saturated fat, one rich in omega-6 fatty acids, and one rich in omega-6 fatty acids combined with a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish or fish oil supplements, are often touted as “healthy fat,” given their heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties.

Maybe there is something behind all that omega-3 fatty acid publicity—as the mice that ate the diets high in saturated fat or omega-6 fatty acids experienced a worsening of arthritis, whereas the mice that were exposed to even that small supplement of omega-3 fatty acids had healthier joints. Further, arthritis was found to be significantly associated with the diets of the mice, but not with body weight. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to slow the progression of arthritis, negating to some extent the detrimental effects of obesity.

The article’s senior author suggests that a healthy diet would include equal ratios of the omega-3 fatty acids and the other not-so-good fats. Unfortunately, most Americans eat significantly more saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.

We don’t have to give up the things we like, we just have to eat a little more of the things that are good for us. End-stage arthritis is not inevitable.

Comfort for those who purchase their Magnums in the frozen section rather than that quiet aisle in CVS!

I’m thinking Chocolate Infinity with a fish oil capsule chaser.

More Posts