Even Neanderthals had achy knees.
A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) looked at more than 2,000 skeletons, dating all the way back to our earliest ancestors through modern day folks.
The researchers wanted to study osteoarthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis happens when the bones in a joint come into direct contact. As they rub against one another, they leave a polish behind on the bones. The name for it is eburnation.
And here’s the thing… that shine stays on your bones long, long after you’re dead. That’s how we can see that prehistoric man had sore knees.
The researchers took in as much data as possible and what they found just blew conventional medicine out of the water…
Osteoarthritis most likely isn’t due to obesity or old age… at least not entirely.
Think about that for a moment. We’ve all had our doctors tell us to lose weight to help ease the load on our joints or we’ve simply accepted aches and pains as a part of growing older. But what if there were more to it?
Doctors label osteoarthritis (OA) as the “wear and tear” arthritis. That separates it from rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
In RA, your immune system attacks the membrane around your joint, breaking it down and causing painful swelling. In OA, the cartilage that cushions your bones as they rub on each other breaks down.
Here’s the thing though… wear and tear alone doesn’t cause OA.
As this new study found, folks born after WWII have double the risk of OA. And that number comes after accounting for heavier weights and longer life spans.
They went on to explain in PNAS:
Chronic low-grade inflammation, which is exacerbated by physical inactivity, modern diets rich in highly refined carbohydrates, and excessive adiposity, can further magnify and accelerate loading-induced damage to joint tissues and may also directly affect knee OA pathogenesis. Evaluating which of these or additional features of modern environments are responsible for today’s high knee OA levels is necessary.
So mid-20th century makes sense for this change. Think about it… In the 1940s, food processing reached a new scale to help feed the troops.
Processed white flour had some initial resistance, but in 1943 the government required white flour to include vitamins like iron and riboflavin. The idea was to combat widespread nutritional deficiencies. At that point, white flour took off in popularity.
In the 50s, the labor force started to shift from jobs requiring high levels of activity to low activity. Some researchers state this, along with the boom of the auto industry, was the beginning of America’s slip into inactivity.
Highly processed foods like our “white killers” (white bread, white sugar, white rice) contribute to massive inflammation. Similarly, artificial sugar causes its share of inflammation as well. I told people for years to limit white killers. And if you have OA, avoid them.
You see, more and more research pegs inflammation as a contributing factor.
In fact, one study from the Notre-Dame Hospital Research Center in Quebec measured inflammation. What they found was that the knee’s membrane appeared just as affected in both RA and OA patients.
And another study in 2001 from the American College of Rheumatology found a “predictor” of OA. It turns out that an immune trigger, C-reactive protein, appears in joint fluid much earlier than expected.
It wouldn’t surprise us to see future OA research focus more on inflammation. Already we’ve seen inflammation revealed as the basis of many other diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
In the meantime, keep doing what we’ve recommended for inflammatory diseases: get out and get moving, stop eating processed foods, and get plenty of antioxidants. Simple exercises for your knees include yoga, walking, and some light resistance training. And antioxidant-rich foods include fruits, veggies, and olive oil.
What We’re Reading…
- In case you missed it: Our write-up on arthritis exercise.
- Something different: How do you take your whiskey?
Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
August 22, 2017