Arthritis Due to Aging or “Wear and Tear”? Think Again!


Ever been to the doctor with some kind of joint pain just to be told that it is “just wear and tear” (*shrug*)? I would probably be a millionaire if I had a tenner for each person that told me a story along these lines.

And yet, arthritis (particularly of the knee) is not just something that happens when we get older. Instead, new research suggests it is a preventable disease.

Arthritis has little to do with ageing or even ‘wear and tear’—instead, it is more likely to be caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution.

While cases of arthritis have doubled in the past hundred years, this epidemic is NOT due to us living longer or being heavier, which are just untested assumptions. (Read on…)

Researchers from Harvard University inspected the skeletons of 1,581 people from the 19th century who were aged 50 or over. They then compared them to those of 819 similar people who lived in the 20th century. After taking into account age and body mass index (BMI, a standard measure of obesity / overweight), it turned out that cases of knee arthritis had doubled in the later group, meaning neither age nor body weight are associated with the increase, and that this increase has to do with something else instead.

Big differences between the two centuries include the rise of industry and pollution, two world wars but also progressively more sedentary jobs and a change in agricultural and dietary practices which may well have had more of an impact on the disease than aging or weight increase.

It is also interesting to know:

  • Numerous studies have failed to find a direct relationship between pain and age.
  • Many chronic pain disorders occur less frequently with advancing age according to population studies.
  • Migraine pain, as well as low back, neck, and facial pain, is less common among older adults that it is among their younger counterparts.
  • Pain does not always progress. In a large cohort of patients with peripheral joint osteoarthritis, radiographic joint space narrowing worsened over 3 years, but this did not correlate consistently with worsening pain
  • The degree of pain experienced is more strongly associated with depression in older patients compared with younger adults. This may indicate another alternative explanation for factors involved in the arthritis epidemic.

How to avoid arthritis?

  • Eat well, mainly plant foods and ideally organic
  • Avoid / cut down on sugar and processed foods (particularly omega 6 fatty acids).
  • Avoid pesticide and chemical exposure in the air, food/water and on your skin
  • Exercise (particularly in a group, check out our Leicester classes!)
  • Practice gratitude – stay positive
  • Maintain a good social network

Holistic Fitness Consultant


(Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 10.1073/pnas.1703856114)

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