Vegan diet may ease rheumatoid arthritis

March 20, 2008 in Heart Health, Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Vegan diet may ease rheumatoid arthritis

According to Swedish researchers, a gluten-free vegan diet full of nuts, sunflower seeds, fruit and vegetables appears to offer protection against heart attacks and strokes for people with rheumatoid arthritis, Swedish researchers said on Tuesday.

(Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Rice, quinoa and millet are gluten-free grains.)

In the study, the researchers put 38 volunteers on gluten-free vegan foods and had 28 other people eat a balanced but non-vegan diet for one year.

The people on the diet excluding animal products and gluten had lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the so-called "bad cholesterol" that can lead to clogged arteries. They also lost weight while the volunteers on the other diet showed no change.

The diet also affected the immune system, easing some symptoms associated with the painful joint condition. The findings suggest that modifying one's diet could play an important role for people with rheumatoid arthritis who are often more prone to heart attacks, strokes and clogged arteries.

Previous studies have linked the benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet in non-rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to lower blood pressure, lower body mass index and lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers said further study was needed to determine the roles the different foods may play in offering protective benefits against heart attacks and strokes.

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