Mobility Mineral? Taking zinc lowers risk for arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disease in which the body attacks its own joint tissue, leading to pain, swelling and limited motion. Many research studies show that dietary choices can have a significant effect on the severity of the disease. According to a recent study, one mineral arthritis sufferers don’t want to miss is zinc.

Researchers reviewed the data on nearly 30,000 women from the Iowa Women’s Health Study who had answered a food questionnaire in 1986. The data included information on both food and vitamin and supplement intake. Years later, the researchers determined that there were 158 cases of rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed among the women. They then compared the diets of those who had developed arthritis with those who had not.

They found that those who took zinc supplements had a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Strangely, getting an equivalent amount of zinc from food was not associated with decreased risk in this study.

The researchers also note that women getting less than 40 micrograms of beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, were at a slightly higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than women who consumed more than that amount. Beta-cryptoxanthin is also found in red bell peppers, corn, watermelon and papaya.

American Journal of Epidemiology 2003;157:345-354