Public Release: 

Brightly-coloured fruit and veg may protect against arthritis

University of Manchester

Rheumatoid arthritis currently affects around 1% adults in the UK. Previous studies have suggested that vitamin C and the pigment beta-cryptoxanthin, both of which are found in brightly-coloured fruit and veg, may act as antioxidants, and protect the body against the oxidative damage which can cause inflammation.

The Manchester team, based in the Arthritis Research Campaign's Epidemiology Unit, worked with researchers from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge to analyse health questionnaires and diet diaries by over 25000 45-74 year-olds; completed as part of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation of Cancer) Norfolk study of diet and chronic disease in the 1990s. They then followed-up the participants over a nine year period to identify new cases of inflammatory polyarthritis (IP), including rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Dorothy Pattison, who led the research, said: "We 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.

"Those in the top third for beta-cryptoxanthin intake were only half as likely to develop IP as those in the lowest third, and vitamin C was also found to be an important factor."

The findings appear to confirm previous evidence 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.

Dr Pattison has previously published research which found that both low intakes of fruit and vegetables (in particular those high in vitamin C), and high levels of red meat consumption were associated with an increased risk of developing IP.

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Notes for Editors

A full paper on the findings of the research appears in the August issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (http://www.ajcn.org/current.shtml).

The EPIC Norfolk study is funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

The University of Manchester (www.manchester.ac.uk) was formed by the merger of The Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST in October 2004, and with 36 000 students expected in the coming academic year is the largest higher education institution in the country. Its Faculty of Medical & Human Sciences (www.mhs.manchester.ac.uk) is one of the largest faculties of clinical and health sciences in Europe, with a research income of over £37 million.

The School of Medicine (www.medicine.manchester.ac.uk) is the largest of the Faculty's five Schools, with 1300 staff, almost 2000 undergraduates and a £32M research income. The School encompasses five teaching hospitals, and is closely linked to a range of general hospitals and community practices across the North West of England.

For further information please contact:

Jo Nightingale on 0161 275 8156/joanne.nightingale@manchester.ac.uk, or Mikaela Sitford on 0161 275 2112/mikaela.sitford@manchester.ac.uk.

The Arthritis Research Campaign (arc) is the fourth largest medical research charity in the UK, funding research totalling £20 million annually. For more information please contact arc press officer Jane Tadman on 01246 541107 or visit www.arc.org.uk.

The University of Cambridge's (www.cam.ac.uk) reputation for outstanding academic achievement is known worldwide and reflects the intellectual achievement of its students as well as the world-class original research carried out by the staff of the University and the Colleges.

As Cambridge approaches its 800th anniversary in 2009, it continues to change in response to the challenges it faces. The modern University is an international centre of teaching and research in a vast range of subjects: about half of the students study science or technology. Members of the University have won over 80 Nobel Prizes.

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