Citrus and zinc may lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis

February 25, 2003 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Citrus and zinc may lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis

A new study suggests that the mineral zinc and an antioxidant found in citrus fruit might lower the risk for rheumatoid arthritis, but the researchers say the findings are preliminary and there are still no well-defined risk factors for the disease.

The researchers looked at nearly 30,000 women from the Iowa Women's Health Study.

The doctors found that women getting less than 40 micrograms of beta-cryptoxanthin, which is found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, were at a slightly higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than women who consumed more than that amount.

When they looked at the amount of zinc in each woman's diet, they found that those who took zinc supplements had a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. But getting an equivalent amount of zinc from food was not associated with decreased risk.

The study's strength was its ability to look at women's diets before they developed arthritis. He says people with rheumatoid arthritis often change their diets after getting a diagnosis in the hopes that certain foods will improve their symptoms.

The only well-defined risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis is genetics. The disease is caused by a misguided immune system attack on the body's own joint tissue, which leads to swelling, pain, stiffness and in some cases deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common among women than men.

The message to the general consumer, say the researchers, is "here's another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables.

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