Introduction: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of vegan diet in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on blood lipids oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) and natural atheroprotective antibodies against phosphorylcholine (anti-PCs).
Methods: Sixty-six patients with active RA were randomly assigned to either a vegan diet free of gluten (38 patients) or a well-balanced non-vegan diet (28 patients) for 1 year. Thirty patients in the vegan group completed more than 3 months on the diet regimen. Blood lipids were analyzed by routine methods, and oxLDL and anti-PCs were analyzed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Data and serum samples were obtained at baseline and after 3 and 12 months.
Results: Mean ages were 50.0 years for the vegan group and 50.8 years for controls. Gluten-free vegan diet induced lower body mass index (BMI) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and higher anti-PC IgM than control diet (p < 0.005). In the vegan group, BMI, LDL, and cholesterol decreased after both 3 and 12 months (p < 0.01) and oxLDL after 3 months (p = 0.021) and trendwise after 12 months (p = 0.090). Triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein did not change. IgA anti-PC levels increased after 3 months (p = 0.027) and IgM anti-PC levels increased trendwise after 12 months (p = 0.057). There was no difference in IgG anti-PC levels. In the control diet group, IgM anti-PC levels decreased both after 3 and 12 months (p < 0.01). When separating vegan patients into clinical responders and non-responders at 12 months, the effects on oxLDL and anti-PC IgA were seen only in responders (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: A gluten-free vegan diet in RA induces changes that are potentially atheroprotective and anti-inflammatory, including decreased LDL and oxLDL levels and raised anti-PC IgM and IgA levels.