An association between arthritis in those aged 45 to 85 years and poorer nutritional status, assessed using nutritional scores, was found in a recent 2024 Canadian longitudinal research study by Bennett and colleagues. Poor nutritional intake and malnutrition can lead to long-term health conditions and a contribution towards morbidity and mortality.

Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint; osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are the two most common types. It has a predominance in women and those over 40 years old. GlobalData epidemiologists predict there will be over 58,000 total prevalent cases of RA in men and women of all ages 18 years and above in Canada by the end of 2024, and that number is projected to grow to over 63,000 by the end of 2029. For the same demographic in Canada, the prevalent cases of radiographically confirmed OA in the hands, hip, and knee is forecast at just over 20 million by the end of 2024 and 23 million by the end of 2031.

The severity and type of arthritis and the particular joint affected can influence the level of functional impairment experienced by the individual. Mobility around the kitchen due to joint pain or tiredness could decrease time spent in the kitchen cooking or preparing food; low energy levels and general fatigue could also result in loss of appetite. The relationship between nutrition and arthritis is complex and multifactorial and involves external influencing factors such as psychological, physical, and social experiences at varying degrees that can also contribute towards functional impairment. The study by Bennett and colleagues, published in Scientific Reports, explores these relationships and quantifies the strength of the association of these study outcomes. Data for the period 2010–2014 on 14,468 participants with arthritis and 26,685 without, aged 45 to 85 years old, from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) was analysed to evaluate nutritional risk scores after stratification by demographics. Arthritis was split into three categories: RA, OA, and other forms of arthritis. The nutritional risk measure attributes scores to recent weight loss changes, frequency of meal skipping, general appetite, difficulties with swallowing, daily vegetable/fruit consumption, fluid intake, social context of the mealtime, and the frequency of cooking meals at home, for a maximum score of 48.

After controlling for demographic and health characteristics to avoid potential covariates, those with arthritis were associated with a worse nutritional risk score compared to those with no arthritis. The nutritional score was slightly worse among those with RA compared to other types. Arthritis participants were 11% more likely to have high nutritional risk (H-NR) after controlling for both meal preparation impairment and functional impairment, highlighting the extent of limitations arthritis can have even after adjusting for two impairments. However, the impact of functional impairment is still profound, because the study found a 1.88-point decrease in nutritional score regardless of arthritis presence.

These findings highlight potential positive outcomes of early prevention through screening of risk factors, such as RA specifically, associated with poor nutritional risk that can be used to identify those who are prone to malnutrition.

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