Low Carbohydrate Diet May Reduce Pain from Knee Osteoarthritis

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Robert E. Sorge, PhD | Associate Professor
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Psychology
Director | PAIN Collective
UAB | The University of Alabama at Birmingham

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our work in animals has shown that a poor-quality diet (high in refined carbohydrates) leads to widespread inflammation, activated immune cells and prolongs recovery from an injury. We have also shown that diet can reverse these effects. Therefore, we wanted to see whether we could reduce pain in people with knee osteroarthritis just by changing their diet.

We know that carbohydrates can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, so we wanted to know whether reducing them would reduce pain or whether pain could be reduced by just losing weight – the knee is a weight-bearing joint, after all. We found that weight loss did not predict pain relief, but that the participants following a low-carb diet showed reduced daily pain, reported less pain interference in daily activities and had less pain when we evoked pain in their knees. The reduction in evoked pain was related to changes in oxidative stress.

Ours is a small study, but we believe that it is important to let people know that a change of diet can have a significant impact on their daily pain. Diets are modifiable and have no negative side effects – something not true of most pain-relieving medications.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It is worth considering a change in diet to reduce pain. A low-carbohydrate diet (with medical supervision and approval) can be a highly beneficial means to reduce pain without the side effects common to many medications. In addition, the side effects of a low-carb diet can include weight loss, improved glucose control, more energy and reduced risk for metabolic disorders.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We need to replicate our work in a larger population to assess the generalizability of the results and to extend our work to other pain conditions. We will also be looking to future studies to determine the optimal ways to keep people on healthy diets after the s study ends.

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response: Diets will not “cure” pain, but they have the potential to reduce pain. Adoption of healthy diets might be a means to reduce our reliance on prescription drugs at the current (problematic) level.


Citation: Pain Med. 2019 Mar 13. pii: pnz022. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz022. [Epub ahead of print]

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Last Updated on March 22, 2019 by PainRelief.com