By Nita Wong ‘21
Osteoarthritis (OA), the most widespread form of arthritis and disability in the United States, affects an estimated 27 million Americans. A condition that occurs due to the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions bones in joints – resulting in the bones rubbing against each other – OA most commonly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Several factors can increase an individual’s risk for OA – frequent high-impact physical labor, pre-existing joint conditions, age, genetics, and obesity, among others.
A recent study conducted by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) researchers focused on the role of extra body weight on a person’s chances of developing OA. To build on previous findings, the team aimed to determine whether different dietary habits leading to the condition of obesity had different effects on the development of OA. Under the leadership of OMRF scientist Dr. Timothy Griffin, the team induced obesity in male laboratory mice by placing different groups of mice on different diets; the final body weight and body fat of all mice were the same. In comparing collected results, the researchers found that the rodents whose obesity resulted from a diet high in sucrose (table sugar) were significantly more likely to develop OA than those whose obesity resulted from a diet high in fat: mice on the high-sucrose diet showed increased signs of joint inflammation.
While this particular study utilized mice as the model organism, its findings could ultimately have human implications, especially because low-fat diets often involve the consumption of large amounts of carbohydrates, which encompass a broad range of sugars. Griffin and his team plan to expand their research by studying the effects of dietary fiber and other dietary components on OA.
- E. Donovan, et. al., Independent effects of dietary fat and sucrose content on chondrocyte metabolism and osteoarthritis pathology in mice. Disease Models & Mechanisms (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/dmm.034827.
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/baked-baking-bread-breakfast-298217/