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The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies


Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease characterised by severely swollen and painful joints. To compliment pharmacotherapy, people living with rheumatoid arthritis often turn to dietary interventions such as the Mediterranean diet. The aim of the present systematic review is to discuss the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the management and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis in human prospective studies. Four studies met the inclusion criteria, including two intervention studies reporting improvement in the pain visual analogue scale (p < 0.05) and a decrease in the health assessment questionnaire for rheumatoid arthritis score (p < 0.05) in the Mediterranean diet groups. Only one study reported a reduction in the 28 joint count disease activity score for rheumatoid arthritis for the Mediterranean diet group (p < 0.05). This review has identified beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet in reducing pain and increasing physical function in people living with rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to support widespread recommendation of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.

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There were no funding received for this study.

Author information




CF and MK performed the systematic review, ENG validated the systematic search. CF, MK, NMD’C and ENG wrote the paper. DBP and JK reviewed the manuscript and DDM and NN conceptualized and reviewed the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nenad Naumovski.

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All the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Forsyth, C., Kouvari, M., D’Cunha, N.M. et al. The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies. Rheumatol Int 38, 737–747 (2018).

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  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Autoimmune
  • Review
  • Arthritis