What is Joints Health?
Joint health reflects the ability of structures like cartilage, tendons, and ligaments to perform their roles in the function of the joint. Preservation of joint structure and function is critical in the battle against arthritis (inflammation of a joint).
Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is the most common form of arthritis. It is caused by degeneration of cartilage. Cartilage serves an important role in joint function. Its gel-like nature provides protection to the ends of joints by acting as a shock absorber. Without the cartilage in the joint, bone literally rubs against bone leading to pain, deformity, inflammation, and limitation of motion in the joint.
What causes poor joint health?
The primary cause is the combination of the degenerative “wear-and-tear” process of aging. The cumulative effects of decades of use leads to the degenerative changes by stressing the collagen matrix of the cartilage. Stress on the cartilage results in the release of enzymes that destroy cartilage components. With aging, the ability to restore and manufacture normal cartilage structures decreases. Often this inability to restore collagen as a person ages is related to nutritional factors.
What dietary factors are important in Joint Health?
Perhaps the most important dietary recommendation to preserve joint health is maintaining or achieving normal body weight. Being overweight means increased stress on weight-bearing joints. That greatly increases the risk osteoarthritis.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important to joint health because of their natural plant compounds that can protect against damage to the joints. Foods especially beneficial are flavonoid-rich fruits, such as cherries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Also important are sulfur-containing foods, such as garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. The sulfur content in fingernails of arthritis sufferers is lower than that of healthy subjects without arthritis.