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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 00:20 GMT
Joints better with two veg
Cooked vegetables could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis

A diet rich in olive oil and cooked vegetables may offer protection against crippling rheumatoid arthritis, according to scientists.

But doubt has been cast on the Greek research by a British expert.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that people eating little or no olive oil were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop the condition.

In addition, those who ate the highest amount of cooked vegetables had a 75% lesser risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

The research was conducted at the University of Athens Medical School, and compared the diets of those with the condition to those of people who had not developed it.

The researchers suggest that olive oil, like oils from deep sea fish such as herring or tuna, is rich in natural antioxidants which counter the inflammation which characterises rheumatoid arthritis.

British doubts

However, Dr Frank McKenna, a consultant rheumatologist at Trafford General Hospital in Manchester, said that effects of diet on the condition were likely to be minimal.

He said: "Having a lot of fish oil or olive oil can have an effect on the inflammatory response.

"But the amount you can achieve is the same as taking one aspirin.

"There are theoretical benefits of these long chain fatty acids, or essential fatty acids. These claims need to be investigated thoroughly, and every time I have done this, I look at the data and it is usually fairly thin."

New drug available

Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately one per cent of the population, and can leave sufferers severely disabled - or even contribute to their deaths.

It is essentially an unwarranted over-reaction by the body's own immune system to the tissues which surround its own joints.

These can become inflamed, causing painful swelling, and permanent damage, and the immune response can eventually spread to tissues in the major organs, causing more serious problems.

It is most likely to strike in the 30s or 40s, although much younger people can be affected.

Drug treatments currently available on the NHS are limited, and can have unpleasant side-effects.

However, a new drug, Leflumonide, was launched last week. It is as effective as existing treatments, but with fewer side effect. But it is more than 20 times more expensive.

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See also:
18 Nov 99 |  Health
Arthritis drug prompts funding worries
02 Dec 98 |  Health
Silicone implants safe says US inquiry
30 Jun 99 |  Health
Immune link to autism

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