DECEMBER 01, 2006

NFL Greats Team Up to Tackle OA

The Arthritis Foundation has enlisted the help of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway and other retired National Football League (NFL) players to launch their "Game Plan for OA" (osteoarthritis), an education and awareness campaign designed to encourage patients with OA to develop a better working relationship with their doctors regarding their ailment. The program also seeks to promote proper exercise, with the goal of reducing the pain, stiffness, and limitations that OA can inflict on patients.

The program was created by the Arthritis Foundation and is being supported with radio and TV interviews with the retired NFL players, many of whom are currently dealing with OA themselves. The foundation encourages patients to stay active to alleviate painful symptoms and to work with their doctors to set personal goals to help control OA. For more information, patients can visit the Arthritis Foundation Web site,, or call 800-568-4045.

Vitamin D Levels Drop in Winter

As the days get shorter and colder, people are more likely to spend less time outdoors than in warmer seasons. When they do go out, they are usually covered from head to toe, limiting the sun's access to their skin. Unfortunately, the human body's main source of vitamin D—essential for the formation of healthy bones—is exposure to the ultraviolet radiation found in sunlight. Researchers at the University of Ulster in Ireland are launching a 3-year project to study what levels of dietary vitamin D are necessary to maintain healthy levels in the body during the wintertime.

According to Julie Wallace, BSc, PhD, a senior research fellow at the university, "For 6 months of the year,?we cannot make vitamin D through exposure to sunlight?because the sun is too low in the sky. Our summertime levels will last for part of the year, but by the end of winter?those stores are low." Although the study will focus mainly on adults 20 to 40 years of age in the first year, and adults over age 65 in the second, Dr.Wallace acknowledges that other populations at risk of low vitamin D status also need to be studied.

Exercise Prior to Surgery Cuts Rehab Time

A study published in the October 2006 issue of Arthritis Care & Research showed that patients with end-stage osteoarthritis who engage in regular exercise prior to hip or knee replacements improve overall muscle strength and can shorten or eliminate time in postoperative rehabilitation. Researchers at New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, Mass, studied 108 patients who were to undergo hip or knee replacement surgery between November 2001 and November 2003. The patients were placed into one of 2 groups—half of the patients took part in both water and land-based exercise programs 3 times a week for 6 weeks prior to their surgeries, and the other half received educational materials only. Those who exercised were shown to reduce their odds of being discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation facility by 73%. They were also more likely to be able to walk more than 50 feet.

It was noted that those who exercised responded differently before and after surgery depending on which joint was replaced—those requiring hip replacement showed improved function before surgery as well.

Researchers noted that knee-replacement candidates might need to participate in strength training for longer periods of time prior to surgery to see similar results.

Spice Up Your Life and Treat Your Arthritis

Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson have found that the spice turmeric can prevent joint inflammation and are examining the mechanism by which turmeric protects joints in arthritis. The spice is used commonly in curries and other South Asian cuisine. The study showed that turmeric significantly inhibited joint destruction due to arthritis and inhibited nuclear factor-B, a protein that controls the gene expression of substances that produce an inflammatory response. The spice also altered the expression of hundreds of genes involved in joint swelling and destruction and prevented an increase in osteoclasts in joints.

The researchers prepared their own extracts from the rhizome (turmeric root) in order to test and compare 3 natural extracts with commercially available products. They tested a whole extract of turmeric root, only the essential oils, and an oildepleted extract containing the 3 major curcuminoids found in the rhizome. Of the 3 extracts, the one containing the major curcuminoids was most similar in chemical composition to commercially available turmeric dietary supplements. It also was the most effective, completely inhibiting the onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The study authors agree that "clinical trials are?needed to verify? whether treatment with adequate doses of?turmeric extracts can indeed prevent/suppress disease flares in RA patients, as well as to explore any potential benefits of turmeric?in the prevention or treatment of more common forms of arthritis?." The findings were published in the November 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.