A multidisciplinary lifestyle program for rheumatoid arthritis: the 'Plants for Joints' randomized controlled trial

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2023 Aug 1;62(8):2683-2691. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keac693.


Objective: To determine the effect of a multidisciplinary lifestyle program in patients with RA with low-moderate disease activity.

Methods: In the 'Plants for Joints' (PFJ) parallel-arm, assessor-blind randomized controlled trial, patients with RA and 28-joint DAS (DAS28) ≥2.6 and ≤5.1 were randomized to the PFJ or control group. The PFJ group followed a 16-week lifestyle program based on a whole-food plant-based diet, physical activity and stress management. The control group received usual care. Medication was kept stable 3 months before and during the trial whenever possible. We hypothesized that PFJ would lower disease activity (DAS28). Secondary outcomes included anthropometric, metabolic and patient-reported measures. An intention-to-treat analysis with a linear mixed model adjusted for baseline values was used to analyse between-group differences.

Results: Of the 83 people randomized, 77 completed the study. Participants were 92% female with mean (s.d.) age of 55 (12) years, BMI of 26 (4) kg/m2 and mean DAS28 of 3.8 (0.7). After 16 weeks the PFJ group had a mean 0.9-point greater improvement of DAS28 vs the control group (95% CI 0.4, 1.3; P < 0.0001). The PFJ intervention led to greater decreases in body weight (difference -3.9 kg), fat mass (-2.8 kg), waist circumference (-3 cm), HbA1c (-1.3 mmol/mol) and low-density lipoprotein (-0.32 mmol/l), whereas patient-reported outcome measures, blood pressure, glucose and other lipids did not change.

Conclusion: The 16-week PFJ multidisciplinary lifestyle program substantially decreased disease activity and improved metabolic status in people with RA with low-moderate disease activity.

Trial registration: International Clinical Trials Registry Platform; https://www.who.int/clinical-trials-registry-platform; NL7800.

Keywords: RA; diet; physical activity; stress management.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged