Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation in Australia, have published a study in the journal Scientific Reports showing that a diet high in saturated fat and carbohydrates causes changes in joint cartilage and bone that lead to the development of osteoarthritis.
The study compares the effects on knee cartilage metabolism in two groups of rats over 16 weeks. One group followed a corn starch diet and the other a diet of simple carbohydrates plus saturated fats found in foods such as butter, palm oil, coconut oil or animal fat.
The researchers found that a carbohydrate diet with 20% saturated fat is enough to produce changes characteristic of osteoarthritis in the knees of rats. Saturated fat deposits cause changes in cartilage metabolism and weaken it. This leads to the inflammation and pain characteristic of osteoarthritis because cartilage loses its cushioning effect in the joint.
According to the authors, the study data suggest that diets containing saturated fats derived from palm oil, coconut oil or animal fat may worsen the development of osteoarthritis in humans. They also propose human clinical trials to determine whether replacing saturated fats in the diet can attenuate or reverse the development not only of osteoarthritis but also of metabolic syndrome, obesity and hypertension.
Sekar S., Raihanah Shafie S., Prasadam I., Crawford R., Panchal S.K., Brown L. & Xiao Y.Saturated fatty acids induce development of both metabolic syndrome and osteoarthritis in rats. Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 46457 (2017). doi:10.1038/srep46457