A healthy diet may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in younger women, according to a large study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Using data from nearly 170,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, it found that women under 55 whose diets scored higher on the Alternative Healthy Eating Index were about one-third less likely to develop the disease (especially the seropositive form) over an average of 22 years, compared to those who scored lowest.
A higher score on the index indicates greater adherence to the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats (omega-3s); decreasing sugary drinks, red and processed meat, trans fats, and sodium; and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol (if any).
No association was found between RA and diet in older women.
The researchers attribute the benefits of the healthy diet in part to its being rich in foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.