The Nutrigenomics Associated with Osteoarthritis

Nutrigenomics in a Nutshell

The latest buzz in nutritional science is the exciting but often controversial field of study, nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of bioactive compounds from food on gene expression. Also called “the DNA diet approach”, nutrigenomics has the potential to personalize your future diet to not only promote good health, but also prevent, or reduce the impact of ill-health.

Scientists Elliott & Ong (2002) maintain that the diet has a significant impact on chronic disease and overall physical and mental well-being. These researchers concluded that functional nutritional genomic techniques allow for improvement of health.

Certain compounds and complex mixtures of chemicals in food are able to alter gene expression in the human body. These ‘bioactives’ in food are able to change protein concentrations associated with certain diseases. Biologically active compounds or ‘bioactives’ include catechins from tea, theaflavins, curcumin from turmeric, lactones from chicory, and resveratrol from grapes. These bioactives are capable ofhelp them to manage the other ch can contribute to preventing or improving immune-related disease processes.

In a nutshell, this means that dietary interventions based on the knowledge of nutritional requirements, nutritional status and genetics not only has the potential to prevent or assist with the management of disease, but even more excitingly, it offers the potential to cure chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis on the Rise

There is a rise in the global incidence of age-related diseases of the bone, joint, and muscle, such as osteoarthritis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these types of conditions are the leading causes of morbidity and disability throughout the world.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, with advancing age a major risk factor for development. The contributing factors for OA include underlying anatomical disorders, orthopedic conditions, genetics, obesity, inherited diseases, acquired metabolic conditions, various disorders of blood clotting and bone turnover, joint infection, trauma or injury to the joint, repetitive use, muscle weakness, crystal deposition, and joint instability.

People with OA suffer with pain, limited mobility, loss of joint function, swelling, warmth of the joint, and stiffness. The symptoms depend on the location of the disease and its severity. The twsymptoms that arise from living with a chronic condition/disability.

Fish Oil Supplements

One particular nutritional supplement that remains of interest in human and animal osteoarthritis is fish oil supplements that contain EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid. This is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) which is able to reduce inflammation in osteoarthritis. Not only does this help provide pain relief, but it is able to reduce genetic expression of the genes that control enzymes which break down cartilage. Researchers are also familiar with its beneficial effects in heart disease.

Amazingly, this key nutrigenomic supplement is prominent in canine products, with one global pet food manufacturer having been providing prescription diets that utilize EPA for joint health for around seven years.

How About Curry for Dinner?

Although research on curcumin (from turmeric), the popular Indian spice is still in its early stages, and there are some concerns about its potential toxicity, in the laboratory, curcumin was able to act in an anti-arthritic manner. Curcumin has also been tested in combination with resveratrol, a polyphenolic phytoalexin that is found in peanuts, berries and grapes. This curcumin/resveratrol combination was able to reduce expression of a number of genes involved in inflammation, as well as stimulating a particular protein pathway that is thought to assist in maintaining chondrocyte (cartilage cell) health and preventing cell death.

Or A Cup of Rosehip Tea?

Rosehip is a natural product that is consumed by many in the form of tea. It is known to be rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant in the body. In laboratory research, rosehip has been shown to also have anti-inflammatory properties, by suppressing the expression of certain genes that are important in the inflammatory response.

It has been advertised as helping to reduce arthritic pain, and a meta-analysis study (which reviews available studies) concluded that although the effect was small, rosehip is able to reduce pain and the amount of painkillers required. A new clinical trial, ‘Rosehip Powder for Knee Osteoarthritis’, will be undertaken in Denmark, and it is expected that when this trial is complete, it will provide more information about which types of rosehip supplement, and what sort of doses will be most effective in those with knee osteoarthritis.

The Identification of a ‘Fingerprint’ for OA

Lamers and associates (2003) identified a metabolic fingerprint for OA, by comparing urine from guinea pigs with osteoarthritis to guinea pigs without OA. The researchers found that there were significant amounts of specific metabolic components in the urine of those with OA. This research is promising for identification of new disease markers, and because a fingerprint for OA was identified, it may well contribute to future diagnostic tools for OA in humans.

What Happens Next?

Nutrigenomics is a powerful approach for linking health, genetics and nutrition, focusing on the effects of food on gene expressions in healthy and diseased individuals. There is increasing focus on nutritional supplements, some of which are already common in the food chain, such as fish oil (found in salmon, mackerel and sardines) and curcumin, as well as supplements that are available as natural health products.

Although clinical studies are becoming more common for natural health products, there is still a need for long term studies, similar to conventional drug trials. Currently, few supplements are regulated in the way that conventional drug treatments are. This not only raises questions about supplement purity/source, but also about how herbal supplements can interact with existing drug therapies.

However, for osteoarthritis, it appears overall that the risk-benefit profile of several supplements is encouraging and as work continues to develop in the field of nutrigenomics, it is hoped that other nutritional interventions will come to light that can help to prevent, manage, or even cure this debilitating disorder.


  • Elliott, R. & Ong, T.J. (2002). Nutritional genomics. BMJ, 324. DOI:
  • Evans, D.A., Hirsch, J.B., & Dushenkov, S. (2006). Phenolics, inflammation, and nutrigenomics. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, 86(15): 2503 – 2509.
  • Lamers, R.J., DeGroot, J., Spies-Faber, E.J. et al. (2003). Identification of disease- and nutrient-related metabolic fingerprints in osteoarthritic guinea pigs. Journal of Nutrition, 133(6): 1776 – 1780.
  • Mobasheri, A. (2012). Intersection of inflammation and herbal medicine in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Current Rheumatology Reports.
  • Diet and disease: Exploring the link through Nutrigenomics. Commentary. Can Vet J Volume 47, January 2006.

Last reviewed 26/Feb/2014


Related Posts

The following two tabs change content below.



Latest posts by Editor (see all)