The American Cancer Society estimates diet is linked to about one-third of all cancers. They say eating more fruits and vegetables can help. Recent research suggests produce may also play a protective role in osteoarthritis.

Carrots have them. So do Brussels sprouts. Antioxidants are nutrients found in orange and red produce and green leafy vegetables. They’re known to fight heart disease and some cancers. Now they’re linked to a reduced risk for osteoarthritis.

In a new study, Dr. Joanne Jordan at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found caucasians with high levels of antioxidants in their blood have less osteoarthritis. This did not hold true for African-Americans. “Why would this be different? We don’t know why, but it is something that bears further research,” she says.

Forty million Americans have osteoarthritis. Experts predict in 20 years the number will jump to 60 million. Joe Weissman has osteoarthritis now. “The biggest problem I have is walking down stairs,” he says.

Dr. Jordan says, “If we could come up with something as simple as a dietary intervention to either prevent developing osteoarthritis or prevent it from getting worse — becoming disabling and painful — then we can make a significant impact to the public health.”

Dr. Jordan is conducting more studies to determine the role of antioxidants in arthritis. Vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein and lycopene were the antioxidants Dr. Jordan found in high levels most often in those subjects who did not have arthritis.

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