Arthritis sufferers could protect themselves against heart attacks and strokes by eating a gluten-free, vegan diet, say researchers. The specialised diet – which excludes all animal products – lowered levels of “bad” cholesterol which is linked to heart disease, a study found.
It also boosted levels of natural antibodies to fight compounds in the body that are implicated in rheumatoid arthritis. The condition, which is distinct from the more common osteoarthritis, is a degenerative inflammatory disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks joint tissues, leading to swelling, tenderness and increasing disability. Nearly 400,000 Britons have rheumatoid arthritis, which puts them at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Doctors at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm gave 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis a vegan an gluten-free diet and 28 a non-vegan diet for at least three months. The vegan diet contained vegetables, root vegetables, nuts, fruits, buckwheat, millet, corn, rice and sunflower seeds and omitted gluten – which can be found in a wide range of products including cakes, biscuits, pasta, beer and bread. The non-vegan diet was made up from all food groups. The result, published yesterday in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, showed a decrease in the total level of cholesterol and in levels of the “bad” cholesterol LDL among those on a vegan diet. There was also an increase in levels of natural protective antibodies and a reduction in Body Mass Index. The diet in the control group did not significantly affect cholesterol.
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