Sesame oil and other sesame products have widely been used in Asian countries for thousands of years. Sesame seeds are rich in oil, protein and existing evidence suggests that it has anti-inflammatory effects (1). In 2014 a study about sesame seed supplementation as a treatment for osteoarthritis was published (1). The study had 50 patients in total, half of which were administered ground sesame seeds and the other half received placebo, this was in addition to normal treatment. After measuring different parameters that give a picture of levels of inflammation in the body, the study concluded that the group of patients who consumed sesame seeds saw better results in most of the categories (1). This suggests that sesame seed may have benefits in osteoarthritis when used in combination with standard treatment methods.

Ginger is a favourite household essential that spices up the most simplest of dishes. However, its perks can extend beyond this. A meta-analysis (a study which combines the results from several trials) regarding the efficacy of using ginger in osteoarthritis was published in 2014 (2) The study looked at 5 trials, which made up a total of 593 patients, it looked at the use of oral ginger in comparison to placebo. The study concluded that ginger can be moderately useful in the treatment of osteoarthritis. It also has a fairly low risk of harmful side effects (2). For example, common pain relief medicines used in osteoarthritis such as ibuprofen can upset the lining of the stomach and cause ulcers. Research has suggested that not only does ginger not have such side effects, it may actually may have a protective role towards the stomach lining.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa, an Indian spice) has been described in Ayurveda as a treatment for inflammatory diseases. Various studies have shown that following the use of turmeric there is improvment in pain, physical function and quality of life in patients with osteoarthritis. Some studies have reported less fatigue. Patients taking turmeric also use less analgesics than others who dont consume turmeric. Reducing the use of normal analgesics indrectly will decrease the side effect of analgesics. Studies in the laboratory has shown that turmeric has a protective effect on chondrocytes (cells that make up cartilage) and prevent death of these cells (Apoptosis). Turmeric reduces inflammation by decreasing the effect of proteoglycans, metalloproteases, cyclooxygenase, prostaglandin E-2, and inflammatory cytokines in cartilage cells.

Turmeric can be consumed as a latte. Please see an exciting recipe at
https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/turmeric-latte

Arthritis Research UK featured an article about how fibre rich foods may improve bone health and be protective against joint diseases (4). Examples of fibre rich food groups include muesli, lentils, wholegrains etc. The article explains that eating more fibre can affect the types of bacteria found in the gut, these healthy bacteria encourages the production of fatty acid chains in the bone marrow, leading to lower levels of bone breakdown (4). This means improved bone density and decreased likelihood of bone disease.

To summarise, having a healthy balanced diet is essential to keep most diseases at bay. However, research has found the above food categories to be particularly beneficial in the management of arthritis. Due to their easy availability and few harmful effects, it may well be worth considering incorporating such foods into daily meals. More research needs to be conducted into the field of diet and its effects on arthritis before absolute recommendations can be made. In the meantime, is there harm in trying?

References
1. Effects of Sesame Seed Supplementation on Inflammatory Factors and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis. Mahideh Khadem Haghighian, Beitollah Alipoor et al. 2014.
Available at: http://acta.tums.ac.ir/index.php/acta/article/view/4905

2. Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. al, E.M. Bartels et. s.l. : Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 2014, Vol. 23.
Available at: http://www.oarsijournal.com/article/S1063-4584(14)01276-X/pdf

3. The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis. Chin KY. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016 Sep 20;10:3029-3042.
Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036591/pdf/dddt-10-3029.pdf

4. Fibre-rich foods ‘may help protect against joint diseases and improve bone health. Arthritis Research UK. [Online] January 22, 2018.
Available at: http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/news/general-news/2018/january/fibre-rich-foods-may-help-protect-against-joint-diseases-and-improve-bone-health.aspx.

George Ampat
Consultant Orthopaedic Spinal Surgeon