Researchers are always looking for new treatments to help patients suffering from common conditions such as knee osteoarthritis. We’ve always known that milk is important for strong bones, but a recent study published by the American College of Rheumatology has shown just how important milk can be for women dealing with the effects of knee osteoarthritis.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition caused by natural wear and tear on the joints. The cartilage between the bones begins to wear down causing the bones to rub together. This can be a very painful condition for individuals who suffer from it.  This wearing down of the protective cartilage is a common result of the body’s natural aging process but can be exacerbated by certain repetitive motions or being overweight. The condition is degenerative and can continue to progress as a patient ages.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain after movement
  • Tenderness when pressure is applied to the area
  • Stiffness after inactivity
  • Loss of flexibility
  • A grating sensation when the joint is used
  • Bone spurs developing in the area

Each of these symptoms greatly impacts a patient’s quality of life and leads to additional challenges when it comes to getting around or maintaining a healthy weight.

1 of the most common forms of the condition is knee osteoarthritis. Current research suggests that knee osteoarthritis could be hereditary or it could be caused by an injury or infection that affects that joint. Young people can suffer from knee osteoarthritis but the risk increases significantly after the age of 45. Body weight is extremely important for someone suffering from knee osteoarthritis since our knees bear much of our weight when we are walking or standing.

There is no specific cure for osteoarthritis but a number of treatments and lifestyle changes have proven to be effective in slowing down its progress or preventing pain.

How can you prevent knee osteoarthritis?

The most effective treatments for knee osteoarthritis include lifestyle changes. Losing excess body weight may be 1 of the most significant ways to improve the stress on the knees and reduce pain. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining an exercise program are also essential.

Weightlifting or bodybuilding may the most effective forms of exercise to alleviate pain caused by knee osteoarthritis. Resistance training can help build up the area around the knee which will help your body move effectively without the painful effects of osteoarthritis.

It becomes more challenging to prevent knee osteoarthritis all together. Because it is a condition caused by the natural wear and tear on the joints as well as the effects of aging, many adults will experience some form of osteoarthritis. However, some dietary changes can help. Foods considered anti-inflammatory can help reduce the pain caused by knee osteoarthritis.

Some of these foods include:

  • Fish, such as tuna and salmon
  • Organic fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Ginger

Another food that may help decrease the progression of knee osteoarthritis is milk.

Can milk be the magic bullet for knee osteoarthritis?

While there is no magic cure, the study published in the ACR journal demonstrated that women who consume fat free or low fat milk can delay the effects of knee osteoarthritis. However, cheese actually increased the effects while yogurt did not impact the condition in any way. The researchers suggest that more studies need to be conducted to understand exactly how milk impacted the condition, but the initial information is promising.

Milk has long been known to be a key ingredient for maintaining healthy bones. The right amount of calcium helps prevent or delay the onset of other degenerative bone disorders such as osteoporosis. However, this study specifically focused on the effects of dairy products on the degeneration of cartilage in the knee which causes pain from osteoarthritis. The subjects recruited already suffered from knee osteoarthritis before the study began.

The study included 888 men who, after consuming milk and following up on their knee osteoarthritis, did not see any effect from consuming any dairy products. However, as the 1,260 women in the study increased their consumption of milk they saw a decrease in the joint space width which can cause the pain of knee osteoporosis.

The study is unclear on why cheese impacted the condition negatively and yogurt had no effect. However, simply adding skim or 1% fat milk to your diet could help decrease the pain caused by knee osteoarthritis.

How can you add milk to your diet to help with knee osteoporosis?

Not everyone loves the taste of milk so some people need a little extra creativity when it comes to adding low fat or nonfat milk to their diets. Since the study seems to indicate that cheese is not a valid substitution, here are some everyday tips you can use to increase your milk intake.

  • Switch gradually: If you’re used to drinking full fat milk, you’re not going to like the taste of skim. Start slowly by trying 2% milk before reducing it to 1% and finally drinking skim.
  • Go fat free at Starbucks: If you’re ordering coffee drinks like lattes out at your local coffee shop, start asking for low fat or skim milk.
  • Use it for instant oatmeal: Instead of adding water, use skim milk when you’re making oatmeal for a quick and nutritious breakfast on the go.
  • Blend it in a smoothie: You can add any ingredient to a smoothie so why not skim milk? Fresh fruit like bananas and strawberries are popular as are vegetables like kale and carrots.
  • Treat yourself to pudding: Make some instant chocolate or butterscotch pudding using skim milk for a decadent after dinner treat.

Even though researchers are still looking into the effects of milk on knee osteoarthritis, the bone health benefits of drinking milk are definitely valid. Adding low fat or nonfat milk into your diet may be a smart choice long term. Healthy bones are an important step for reducing pain caused by these types of conditions.

Do you think adding low fat or nonfat milk to your diet can help reduce the effects of knee osteoarthritis for you?

Image by Jonathan Lin via Flickr

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