I recently learned about a study suggesting a vegan diet is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
While that sounded intriguing, another claim made in an interview about the study really caught my attention: the lead author of the study said that physicians should encourage people with rheumatoid arthritis to try changing their eating patterns before turning to medication.
Before turning to medication? Now wait just a minute. That flies in the face of decades of research convincingly demonstrating the importance of early medication treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to prevent permanent joint damage. An increasing number of effective treatments can do just that.
In fact, there’s no convincing evidence that changes in diet can prevent joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis. And that includes this new study.
So, what did this research find? Let’s take a look.
A vegan diet for rheumatoid arthritis
Researchers enrolled 44 people with rheumatoid arthritis in the study. All were women, mostly white and highly educated. They were randomly assigned to one of two groups for 16 weeks:
After the first 16 weeks, participants took four weeks off, then the groups swapped dietary assignments for an additional 16 weeks.
What did the study find about the vegan diet?
The vegan approach seemed to help lessen arthritis symptoms. Study participants reported improvement while on the vegan diet, but no improvement during the placebo phase.