Researchers found that the bacteria in the gut from a high-fat diet may cause osteoarthritis, the most common version of arthritis that currently affects about 30 million people in the United States.
The condition is marked by the slow breakdown of the cartilage, which serves as buffer between joints. Joints can become swollen, stiff, and painful when the cartilage degenerates and worsens over time.
No treatment is currently available to slow the progression of osteoarthritis or reverse the condition, but findings of a new study, which were published in the journal JCI Insight, may pave way for therapies that can target microbiome and treat the condition.
Healthy Gut Microbiome And Osteoarthritis
The so-called wear-and-tear arthritis was long thought to be the result of undue stress on joints on obese people, but the findings provided the first evidence that bacteria in the gut influenced by diet is the key driving force behind the condition.
Study researcher Robert Mooney, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues said that obese mice tend to have more harmful bacteria in the gut compared with lean mice, and this causes inflammation that can lead to rapid joint deterioration.
In their study, they discovered that the effects of obesity on gut bacteria, osteoarthritis, and inflammation were prevented when obese mice feeding high-fat diet received supplements of a common prebiotic known as oligofructose.
While the prebiotic supplements did not help the animals shed weight, they completely reverse other symptoms that made the guts and joints of the obese mice comparable to those of the lean mice.
Prebiotics Reduces Inflammation Linked To Cartilage Degeneration
Humans and rodents cannot digest prebiotics such as oligofructose, but prebiotics are considered a treat for some types of beneficial bacteria in the gut such as the Bifidobacteria.
Colonies of these good bacteria can take over pro-inflammatory bacteria resulting in the reduction of systemic inflammation and breakdown of the cartilage in the rodents' osteoarthritic knees. Oligofructose also made the animals less diabetic, albeit it did not change their body weight.
Just reducing the inflammation likewise appeared to protect the joint cartilage from degeneration, which support the idea that inflammation drive osteoarthritis and joint degeneration.
"Manipulation of the gut microbiome is a potentially novel candidate approach to address the OA of obesity, a clinical problem of massive global scope that is without an accepted disease-modifying therapy," the researchers wrote in their study.