Osteoarthritis is a widespread condition that causes pain, disability, and decreased quality of life. Dietitians can play an important role in managing patients with osteoarthritis by supporting healthy eating habits, which should include the nutrients that support healthy joints. They also can encourage patients who are obese to reduce weight and increase activity levels.
Joints require many nutrients to stay healthy and to regenerate new tissue, including calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc. It also is important to include collagenous materials in the diet to maintain joint health, although many individuals may be cutting back on the amount of collagen in their diet. Joints are threatened further by overweight.
Joint disorders can result from many different causes, including stress to joints, poor dietary habits, injury or trauma, disease, obesity, aging, and congenital deformity. Regardless of the cause, there is no cure for joint disease. Treatment for joint disorders such as osteoarthritis focuses on reducing the pain and inflammation of affected joints, with the goal of maintaining mobility and maximizing quality of life.
Treatments for patients with osteoarthritis range from lifestyle changes, such as exercise, stretching, aerobic activities, and weight management, to dietary and nutritional interventions, including increasing levels of such nutrients as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and vitamin E. In addition, pharmacologic treatments, herbs, and nutritional supplements have been investigated for patients with osteoarthritis.
Drugs that have been used to manage symptoms of patients with osteoarthri-tis include NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors, and glucocorticoids. Herbal products include green tea extracts, SKI306X, and devil's claw. Nutritional supplements that have been studied in osteoarthritis patients include glucosamine and chon-droitin sulfate, MSM, SAMe, and collagen hydrolysate. Research with these drugs and supplements has provided varying results about their efficacy in patients with osteoarthritis; additional research is needed to determine the optimal treatments for patients with this disorder.
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