The missing link in the cause of arthritis: cholesterol

We’ve all heard that high cholesterol is bad for your heart, but could it be bad for your joints too?

In a world-first study, a research team at The Prince Charles Hospital have discovered a link between high cholesterol levels and joint damage (arthritis). Until now we’ve only been aware of certain risk factors for the osteoarthritis, such as age, obesity, injury and overuse, but there was no insight into what was physically happening in our joints to cause them to break down.

This lead to the work Professor Ross Crawford, Professor Yin Xiao, Dr Indira Prasadam and their research team who now believe that metabolic factors in a person could be a contributing factor in osteoarthritis. Through thorough testing of the effects of cholesterol on mice with osteoarthritis, the research team found that cholesterol was responsible for cartilage break down, the main culprit in osteoarthritis.

Testing showed that cholesterol placed oxidative stress on cartilage cells – basically, it was suffocating these cells and causing them to die. Over time, as cartilage cells can’t repair themselves, this resulted in joint damage.

And while this research has led to the important discovery of contributing factors in osteoarthritis the team also believe it may have found a preventative – antioxidants!

By introducing a special type of antioxidant drug into the mix, they were able to see a slowing down in the destruction of cartilage in mice with high cholesterol levels. And not only have their trials shown that antioxidants stop the breakdown of cartilage, but they are also optimistic that future research could uncover that antioxidants can actually help to repair the damaged joints.

This is exciting news for anyone with osteoarthritis or who has a high risk of developing it. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that causes extreme pain to the people who have it. Daily tasks such as getting out of bed, walking up stairs or even typing on a computer can be excruciating for someone with this condition. Now, to have a potential solution and treatment that extends beyond pain management is a huge breakthrough in the field!

The team have already begun working alongside dieticians to educate the public about healthy eating and how to keep cholesterol levels at a manageable level that won’t damage joints.

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