It keeps you full, regular and lowers heart disease risk, and a new study adds one more benefit to eating dietary fiber: protection against osteoarthritis. Published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, researchers at Tufts University and the University of Manchester used data from two previous long-term studies to find yet another reason to include fiber-rich foods into your diet. The analysis of these studies found that people who ate more fiber were less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis (OA).

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The Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI), one of the studies reviewed by the team, looked at the health of nearly 5,000 Americans between the ages of 45 to 79. All participants either had or were at risk of developing osteoarthritis, which helped scientists determine potential risk factors. The second set of data used in this new analysis is the Framingham Offspring cohort study, which tracked roughly 1,200 adults who were children of Framingham Heart Study participants. The original study began in 1948 and aimed to determine heart disease risk factors.

Both studies relied on self reporting of food intake by participants. Those who had the highest amount of fiber in their diets reduced their osteoarthritis risk by 30 percent in the OAI study. In the Framingham study, high-fiber diets were associated with a 61 percent reduction.

“In both studies, those who consumed more fibre were older, had lower BMI and were more educated. They were less likely to have knee pain symptoms and consumed higher amount of vitamins C and K and less dietary saturated fats,” the authors write in the new report.

The study authors also note that osteoarthritis shares certain characteristics, like obesity and inflammation, with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, the latter of which are helped by high-fiber diets.

Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis affects about 27 million people in the United States making it the most common joint condition. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it can impact any area of the body, but typical spots include the knees, hips, lower back and neck. Mostly found in older adults, obesity, overuse, weak muscles, genes and prior joint injuries can cause the condition, however, the Arthritis Foundation reports half of adults will develop knee OA at some point.

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There is no cure, but there are plenty of ways to manage pain. Exercise is one major treatment option, which may not seem that easy with an achy knee or back. But studies have shown that even walking around the block or going to a low impact fitness class can help the condition. And now, people can add fiber into their treatment plan. Health magazine writes that women should aim for 25 grams per day while men should eat about 35 to 40. On average, most people eat only about 15 grams of fiber a day.

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