Eating veg diet may reduce heart attacks in arthritis patients

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London, Mar 18 (UNI) Good news for arthritis sufferers! They could protect themselves against heart attacks and strokes by eating a gluten-free, vegetarian diet, say researchers.

The specialised diet, which excludes all animal products lowered levels of ''bad'' cholesterol which is linked to heart disease, a study in Sweden found.

It also boosted levels of natural antibodies to fight compounds in the body that are implicated in rheumatoid arthritis, the study added.

The condition, which is distinct from the more common osteoarthritis, is a degenerative inflammatory disorder in which the body's immune system attacks joint tissues, leading to swelling, tenderness and increasing disability.

Nearly 400,000 Britons have rheumatoid arthritis, which puts them at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

''I think it is a quite unexpected and interesting finding,'' said Prof Johan Frostegard of the Karolinska Institute rheumatology unit in Stockholm, lead researcher of the study. ''The effects on the immune sysytem are quite new,'' he added.

Doctors gave 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis a vegetarian and gluten-free diet and 28 a non-vegetarian diet for at least three months.

The vegan diet contained vegetables, root vegetables, nuts, fruits, buckwheat, millet, corn, rice and sunflower seeds and omitted gluten (a type of protein commonly found in rye, wheat, barley, cakes, biscuits, pasta, beer and bread). The non-vegan diet was made up from all food groups.

The result, published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, showed a decrease in the total level of cholesterol and in levels of the ''bad'' cholesterol LDL among those on a vegan diet, the Daily Mail reported.

There was also an increase in levels of natural protective antibodies and a reduction in Body Mass Index. The diet in the control group did not significantly affect cholesterol, the report added.

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