Consumption of foods high in vitamin C appears to protect against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints, new research suggests. The findings contrast with a recent report linking high doses of vitamin C with worsening disease in guinea pigs with osteoarthritis, the more common type of arthritis that occurs with aging.
These opposite findings may reflect the fact that rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are caused by different physiologic problems.
With rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, the body attacks itself.
In contrast, osteoarthritis involves a degenerative process that worsens over time.
The findings, which appear in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, stem from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began.
Dr. Dorothy J. Pattison, from the University of Manchester in the UK, and colleagues found that low intake of fruits, vegetables, and vitamin C raised the risk of inflammatory polyarthritis.
For example, subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C were three times more likely to develop the condition than their peers who consumed the highest amounts.
Similarly, low intake of vitamin E and beta-carotene was only weakly linked with an increased risk of inflammatory polyarthritis.