The Mediterranean Diet and Arthritis Risk?

The Mediterranean Diet and Arthritis Risk?

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA):

A study just recently published in the medical journal, Osteoarthritis Cartilage, found a link between higher intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids and bone marrow lesions. Bone marrow lesions are important in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (Wang et al, 2007).

The Mediterranean diet, inspired by the traditional eating habits of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, like Italy, Greece, and Spain, has gained international acclaim not just as a diet but as a sustainable and enjoyable way of life. It’s celebrated for its health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and it’s also known for its emphasis on delicious, fresh foods. Let’s delve into what makes the Mediterranean diet so unique and beneficial.

Understanding the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is more than just a list of foods; it’s a cultural heritage rooted in a region known for its rich biodiversity and exquisite flavors. This diet emphasizes:

  • Plant-based foods: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are the stars of this diet. They are consumed in abundance and provide essential nutrients, fiber, and a variety of antioxidants.
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil is the primary source of added fat, celebrated for its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Nuts and seeds also contribute healthy fats.
  • Herbs and spices: Instead of salt, the diet focuses on a variety of herbs and spices to flavor food, reducing sodium intake and enhancing the natural taste of fresh ingredients.
  • Fish and seafood: Consumed at least twice a week, fish provides a key source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Moderate portions of dairy and eggs: Cheese, yogurt, and eggs are eaten in moderation, providing calcium and protein.
  • Limited intake of red meat: Red meat is consumed less frequently, sometimes only a few times a month.
  • Wine in moderation. For those who drink alcohol, wine is enjoyed in a moderate amount, usually with meals.

Health Benefits

Numerous studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can lead to significant health benefits. These include:

  • Heart Health: The diet’s emphasis on healthy fats, particularly olive oil, has been linked to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and a reduced risk of developing heart disease.
  • Weight Management: High in fiber and healthy fats, the diet promotes satiety and helps in maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Diabetes Prevention: The diet’s low glycemic index foods help in blood sugar control, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer Prevention: Antioxidant-rich foods in the diet can reduce the risk of certain cancers.
  • Brain Health: Some studies suggest that the diet may improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean Lifestyle

Equally important is the lifestyle that accompanies the Mediterranean diet. This includes:

  • Eating with family and friends: Meals are often social events, shared with loved ones.
  • Physical activity: Regular physical activity, such as walking, is an integral part of the lifestyle.
  • Enjoying meals: There’s an emphasis on eating slowly and savoring food, which aids in digestion and enjoyment.

Sustainability and Versatility

The Mediterranean diet is not only healthy but also sustainable. It emphasizes local and seasonal foods, reducing the environmental impact. The versatility of the diet, with its wide range of foods and flavors, makes it adaptable to various tastes and cuisines.

Adopting the Mediterranean diet can be a delightful and beneficial journey. It’s not just about changing what you eat, but also how you eat and how you live. By embracing the Mediterranean way, you can enjoy delicious meals, improve your health, and experience the joy of a balanced lifestyle. Remember, it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have existing health conditions.

What Does This Mean?

When I was in medical school, one type of diet gaining popularity was the Mediterranean diet (Spain, Italy, and Greece). This particular diet was of interested as people in this region were noted to have lower levels of cholesterol and a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. People in this region consume reasonably large quantities of Olive Oil, which has a high MUFA content.

Not surprisingly, there is a high content of MUFAs in this Mediterranean diet.

  1. A diet high in MUFA (versus a high-carbohydrate diet) improves glycemic control in individuals with adult-onset diabetes (NIDDM) who maintain body weight.
  2. Individuals with elevated triglycerides or insulin levels also may benefit from a high-MUFA diet.
  3. Additionally, there is epidemiological evidence that dietary MUFAs have a beneficial effect on the risk of coronary heart disease.

However, despite the numerous potential benefits of MUFAs, there is some preliminary evidence that they may have an adverse effect on your joint health. However, the risk of MUFAs on bone marrow lesions is not firmly established and further studies are required.

If your health concerns include type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, or high cholesterol, you may want to discuss the Mediterranean Diet with your physician, dietician, etc.  To continue reading more about natural arthritis remedies, follow the link.

Other research on the Mediterranean diet suggests that intake of Olive Oil may reduce the effects of photoaging in skin. Other tips to reduce skin aging can include Botox, Dysport, and dermal fillers.


  1. Wang Y, Wluka AE, Hodge AM, English DR, Giles GG, O’sullivan R, Cicuttini FM. Effect of fatty acids on bone marrow lesions and knee cartilage in healthy, middle-aged subjects without clinical knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2007 Oct 13;
Scroll to Top