Osteoarthritis and nutrition. From nutraceuticals to functional foods: a systematic review of the scientific evidence

Arthritis Res Ther. 2006;8(4):R127. doi: 10.1186/ar2016.


The scientific and medical community remains skeptical regarding the efficacy of nutrition for osteoarthritis despite their broad acceptation by patients. In this context, this paper systematically reviews human clinical trials evaluating the effects of nutritional compounds on osteoarthritis. We searched the Medline, Embase, and Biosis databases from their inception to September 2005 using the terms random, double-blind method, trial, study, placebo, and osteoarthritis. We selected all peer-reviewed articles reporting the results of randomised human clinical trials (RCTs) in osteoarthritis that investigated the effects of oral interventions based on natural molecules. Studies on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate were excluded. The quality of the RCTs was assessed with an osteoarthritic-specific standardised set of 12 criteria and a validated instrument. A best-evidence synthesis was used to categorise the scientific evidence behind each nutritional compound as good, moderate, or limited. A summary of the most relevant in vitro and animal studies is used to shed light on the potential mechanisms of action. Inclusion criteria were met by 53 RCTs out of the 2,026 identified studies. Good evidence was found for avocado soybean unsaponifiables. Moderate evidence was found for methylsulfonylmethane and SKI306X, a cocktail of plant extracts. Limited evidence was found for the Chinese plant extract duhuo jisheng Wan, cetyl myristoleate, lipids from green-lipped mussels, and plant extracts from Harpagophytum procumbens. Overall, scientific evidence exists for some specific nutritional interventions to provide symptom relief to osteoarthritic patients. It remains to be investigated whether nutritional compounds can have structure-modifying effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*