Rheumatoid arthritis patients have a greater risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. There are multiple factors that increase the chance of a heart attack or a stroke in rheumatoid arthritis patients. However, researchers have shown a gluten free vegan diet has the potential to protect rheumatoid arthritis patients from cardiovascular diseases. Yes, you heard it right. In this blog, we would discuss how gluten free vegan diet is the diet for rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis seems a little complicated to understand. We will share Rheumatoid arthritis meaning, its causes and symptoms before we move ahead. It refers to a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints. This results in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles. Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain and damage throughout the body.
The body’s immune system is meant to fight infection. In certain cases, as an error, the immune system starts attacking the body’s healthy tissues and damaging them. This disorder is known as an autoimmune disorder. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder.
In this condition body’s immune system attacks the joint linings mainly and in severe cases even attacks internal organs. This chronic disease leads to inflammation, painful joint swelling, bone erosion and even joint deformity. The inflammation can damage other parts of the body too. It is important to identify the symptoms early to ensure better treatment. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Following are a few symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis that one should control before the matter gets out of hands.
- Joint swelling
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Numbness and tingling sensation in hands or feet
- Deformities and loss of function of joints
Studies have reported that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are highly susceptible to cardiovascular diseases and mortality. Researches have demonstrated that if the patient doesn't receive rheumatoid arthritis treatment then they are likely to have an adverse lipid profile. Adverse lipid profile is basically high levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and harmful fats like triglyceride. It is considered a marker for increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.[caption id="attachment_9836" align="alignleft" width="440"]Osteoarthritis – thinned cartilage bones rub against each other. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.[/caption]
According to researchers, the possible causes of higher risk of cardiovascular diseases among rheumatoid arthritis patients are:
- Decreased mobility
- Side effects of medications
- Adverse lipid profile
- Increased homocysteine levels (an amino acid which if present in high levels leads to arterial damage and blood clots within blood vessels)
- Increased thrombotic factor
- Inflammatory mechanisms
Eating habits influence an individual’s health status. Dietary changes can improve a person’s health condition. According to researchers, a gluten free vegan diet could protect a rheumatoid arthritis patient from a heart attack and stroke. A research team from the Rheumatology Unit at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm had conducted a study. They investigated the effects of a gluten free vegan diet on the cardiovascular risk factors in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
The research team conducted their study on 66 rheumatoid arthritis patients for a period of one year. They divided the population into an experimental group of 38 individuals and a control group of 28 individuals. They provided the experimental group with a gluten free vegan diet. On the other hand, the control group was given a non-vegan diet. The team monitored the levels of fatty acids, lipid molecules, oxLDL (oxidized LDL) and anti-phosphorylcholine (antiPC) antibodies of the participants.
The research team observed that the gluten free vegan diet in rheumatoid arthritis patients:
- Reduced LDL levels
- Reduced oxLDL levels
- Reduced BMI (Body Mass Index)
- Increased anti PC antibodies (antibodies against phosphorylcholine; low levels of antiPC antibodies are a risk marker for stroke)
- High-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) remained the same
- Triglyceride level remained the same
On the contrary, none
of the above parameters changed significantly in the case of the individuals on non-vegan diet.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients are at a greater risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Changing one’s diet can change one’s health status. Switching to a gluten-free vegan diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The team has demonstrated that a gluten-free vegan diet can reduce levels of cholesterol, LDL, oxLDL (oxidized LDL). Therefore they have established that a gluten-free vegan diet reduced the levels of cardiovascular risk factors in rheumatoid arthritis patients. A gluten-free vegan diet has the potential to reduce the susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
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Reference research papers: