A team of researchers in the UK say that brightly-coloured fruit and veggies may protect against arthritis.
Apparently rheumatoid arthritis currently affects around 1% adults in the UK, and previous studies have suggested that vitamin C and the pigment beta-cryptoxanthin, both of which are found in brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables, may act as antioxidants, and protect the body against the oxidative damage which can cause inflammation.
In this new research a team from Manchester, based in the Arthritis Research Campaign's Epidemiology Unit, collaborated with researchers from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge.
In the study they analysed health questionnaires and diet diaries of over 25000 45-74 year-olds which were completed as part of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation of Cancer) Norfolk study of diet and chronic disease in the 1990s.
They then monitored the participants over a nine year period to identify new cases of inflammatory polyarthritis ( IP ), including rheumatoid arthritis.
According to Dr Dorothy Pattison, who led the research, they found that the average daily beta-cryptoxanthin intake of the 88 patients who had developed inflammatory polyarthritis was 40% lower than those who hadn't, and their intake of another carotenoid, zeaxanthin, was 20% lower.
It was found that those in the top third for beta-cryptoxanthin intake were only half as likely to develop IP as those in the lowest third.
Vitamin C also appeared to be an important factor.
These findings confirm previous research which suggests that a modest increase in fruit and vegetables containing beta-cryptoxanthin and vitamin C, equivalent to one glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice each day, might help to protect against developing inflammatory joint diseases.
In previously published research Dr Pattison has found that both low intakes of fruit and vegetables, particularly those high in vitamin C, and high levels of red meat consumption were associated with an increased risk of developing IP.
The full paper on the findings of the research appears in the August issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.