Photo of red and green grapes
Antioxidant polyphenols in grapes can help relive pain and protect joints [Image: Lilsafern - Wikimedia Commons]

Eat more grapes to alleviate painful knee osteoarthritis

19 May, 2014

Natural Health News — For people with knee osteoarthritis adding grapes to diet could be a simple way of reducing pain, improving joint flexibility and overall mobility

These benefits, say researchers from Texas Woman’s University can be attributed to the polyphenols found in grapes.

The research was presented ahead of publication at the recent  Experimental Biology 2014 conference in San Diego, California.

The sixteen-week clinical study, involved 72 men and women with knee osteoarthritis (OA) who were assigned to either consume grapes in the form of a whole grape freeze-dried powder, or a placebo powder.

Results showed that both men and women consuming a grape-enriched diet had a significant decrease in self-reported pain related to activity and an overall decrease in total knee symptoms. This beneficial effect was greater in women.

Additionally, age-related differences were observed: there was a 70% increase in difficult activity for those under 64 years of age consuming the grape powder, while those receiving the placebo reported a significant decrease in this type of activity. Participants over 65 years, whether consuming grapes or the placebo, reported a decline in moderate to difficult activities.

Different benefits for men

Evidence of increased cartilage metabolism was observed in men consuming the grape-enriched diet; they had higher levels of an important cartilage growth factor (IGF-1) than those on placebo. This protective effect was not observed in the women.

The researchers noted that no difference in range of motion was observed for either the grape group or the placebo group. The serum marker for inflammation (IL1-β) measured was increased in both placebo and grape groups, although much less of an increase was observed in the grape group.

“These findings provide promising data that links grape consumption to two very important outcomes for those living with knee osteoarthritis: reduced pain and improvements in joint flexibility,” said lead investigator Shanil Juma, PhD.

“More research is needed to better understand the results of the serum biomarkers, as well as the age and gender differences observed.”

Promising laboratory evidence too

During the presentation, Dr. Juma also shared results from a recent cell study that looked at the effects of whole grape polyphenols on cartilage cell integrity and markers of cartilage health. Cartilage cells were first treated with various doses of whole grape polyphenols, and then stimulated with an inflammatory agent. Cell proliferation significantly increased – in a dose dependent manner – in the grape polyphenol treated cells in the presence of an inflammatory agent.

Additionally a marker for cartilage degradation was significantly lower with the three highest doses of the whole grape polyphenols when compared to control cells and cells treated with the inflammatory agent, suggesting a possible protective effect of grapes on cartilage cells.

Osteoarthritis is a condition where the natural cushioning between joints – the cartilage – wears away. Most affected areas include the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees.More than 8.5 million people in the UK have osteoarthritis,  In the US more than 27 million people have this condition and in both countries knees are an area most commonly affected. Osteoarthritis is more likely to occur in people over 45 years of age, and women are more likely to suffer from it than men.