Fight arthritis with five a day

Posted on: 18 January 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Fight arthritis by adding colour to your diet.

We are constantly being reminded to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in order to stay healthy. For arthritis sufferers this is particularly important. Why? Because research shows that the carotenoids present in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are anti-oxidants, which are crucial if you are trying to fight arthritis.

A healthy body is one where everything functions smoothly, but it depends on a delicate balance between substances known as anti-oxidants and free radicals. When free radicals get the upper hand the results can be disastrous. The damage they cause, called oxidation, is strongly linked to the development of arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic conditions. On the other hand, anti-oxidants are the good guys. They react chemically with free radicals and render them harmless.

Scientists studying the typically healthy Mediterranean diet, rich in brightly coloured plants such as red peppers, oranges and broccoli, have become increasingly aware that the carotenoids which cause the pigment are actuallythe major anti-oxidants. In other words, this is a major link between diet and arthritis as eating these kinds of fruits and vegetables can be beneficial to health.

Recent studies: the evidence

  • A 2004 study of men and women aged 45-74, over a period of four years, indicated a link between low consumption of fruit and vegetables and the incidence of inflammatory polyarthritis. In particular, the study found that those eating less than 56mg of dietary Vitamin C daily were three times more likely to develop the condition.
  • A 2004 review of studies published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that higher intakes of fruit and vegetables were associated with lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. In two of the studies, a carotenoid, along with vitamin C, was found to be strongly protective.
  • In a study published in 2005, researchers from The University of Manchester's Medical School concluded that eating more brightly coloured fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of developing inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, due to the anti-oxidant effect of carotenoids.

There's a simple conclusion to be drawn here. Eat plenty of fruit and veg! The current average intake of beta-carotene in Europe is only 2mg a day, but experts estimate we should be aiming for between 8-10mg a day. By following the World Health Organisation's 5-a-day recommendation we would almost certainly get all the vitamin C and carotenoids we need.

Fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids

Carrots, peaches, spinach, cantaloupe, apricots:

Beta Carotene

Carrots and pumpkins:

Alpha Carotene


Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit:


Spinach, peas, kale, broccoli, celery, red pepper:

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Oranges, papaya, peaches, tangerines:



Elizabeth Hartland,
Nutritional Therapist,
The Arthritic Association

Adapted from an article which first appeared in The Arthritic Association News, Autumn 07.

The Home Treatment Programme for Arthritis offers a natural method of managing your arthritis and relief from the associated pain. Developed by Charles de Coti-Marsh over 60 years ago, it has enabled thousands of people to control their arthritis. The Arthritic Association is custodian of works by Charles de Coti-marsh. There are three essential components to his self-care health programme: diet, supplementation and postural management.


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