Do Fruits and Vegetables Cut Arthritis Risk?

Antioxidant Potential of Some Dietary Carotenoids

Fuyu Persimmon on Tree
Persimmon Growing on a Tree. Giordano Trabucchi / EyeEm / Getty Images

Eating a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits is good for your general nutrition, but can they also help cut your risk of arthritis? There have been small studies and older epidemiologic studies that suggest a role of some dietary carotenoids and a vegan diet in general for reducing the incidence of inflammatory forms of arthritis. Research might further lead to drugs based on these substances.

What is recommended is that you enjoy colorful vegetables and fruits, and the more the better. You will enjoy better nutrition in general from all of their components, including vitamins and fiber.

Do Fruits and Vegetables Reduce Arthritis Risk?

An older large epidemiologic study published in 2005 found those with arthritis were more likely to have a lower intake of the carotenoids beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin than healthy control subjects. The measurement of intake was based on a diet diary. These carotenoids are present in many fruits and vegetables.

However, a study that matched rheumatoid arthritis patients and healthy controls that measured circulating levels of these carotenoids did not find a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis for those with higher levels. The evidence that there are specific benefits for specific carotenoids is not yet settled. While the Arthritis Foundation lists healthy fruits and vegetables to eat, the emphasis should be on enjoying a variety of them in your daily diet.

What Is Beta-Cryptoxanthin?

Beta-cryptoxanthin is classified as a pro-vitamin A carotenoid. In the body, it can be converted to an active form of vitamin A. Vitamin A is recognized as being important for skin and bone health as well as immune function. Beta-cryptoxanthin is contained in yellow or orange fruits and vegetables.

Here is a list of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables:

  • Yellow apples
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cape gooseberries
  • Yellow figs
  • Grapefruit
  • Golden kiwifruit
  • Lemon
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Yellow pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pineapples
  • Tangerines
  • Yellow watermelon
  • Yellow beets
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Yellow peppers
  • Yellow potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabagas
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow winter squash

Fruits and Vegetables Highest In Beta-Cryptoxanthin

According to NutritionData.com, a comprehensive listing of the 467 foods highest in beta-cryptoxanthin shows:

  • Peppers, pumpkins, and winter squash as the vegetables with the highest levels of beta-cryptoxanthin per serving.
  • Persimmons, tangerines, and papayas as the fruits with the highest levels of beta-cryptoxanthin per serving.

What Is Zeaxanthin?

Zeaxanthin is another carotenoid with antioxidant power. Food sources of zeaxanthin include green leafy vegetables and yellow/orange fruits and vegetables.

What Should You Eat?

The Arthritis Foundation notes that there is no specific anti-inflammatory diet that people with rheumatoid arthritis should follow, but some foods found in a Mediterranean diet may help control inflammation. You should enjoy a diet rich in vegetables, especially the colorful ones that have a wide range of nutrients.

Sources:

Best Fruits for Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/best-foods-for-arthritis/best-fruits-for-arthritis.php.

Best Vegetables for Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/best-foods-for-arthritis/best-vegetables-for-arthritis.php.

Hu Y, Cui J, Sparks JA, Malspeis S, Costenbader KH, Karlson EW, Lu B. Circulating carotenoids and subsequent risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2017 Mar-Apr;35(2):309-312. Epub 2017 Jan 4.

Pattison DJ, Symmons DP, Lunt M, Welch A, Bingham SA, Day NE, Silman AJ. Dietary B-cryptoxanthin and inflammatory polyarthritis: results from a population-based prospective study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005 Aug;82(2):451-5.

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