A recent study from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) identified a high-fat diet, and specifically, saturated fats as a prime suspect in the onset of osteoarthritis. QUT scientists found that a diet containing 20% saturated fats changed the composition of cartilage in the weight-bearing joints of the hip and knee. The modified cartilage displayed osteoarthritic changes. In addition, the diet resulted in changes to the bone under the cartilage.
The team of researchers from QUT and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, led by professors Yin Xiao and Lindsay Brown, investigated the potential connection between dietary fat and development of osteoarthritis. They looked specifically at the effects of a diet rich in saturated fatty acids and simple carbohydrates on osteoarthritis. High fats and carbohydrates are commonly the most significant nutritional elements in junk food.
Their results showed that a diet containing high levels of saturated fat, commonly found in food additives like butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and animal fat caused the cartilage in joints to deteriorate faster, producing "osteoarthritic-like changes in the knee". Prof. Xiao commented "Our findings suggest that it's not wear and tear but diet that has a lot to do with the onset of osteoarthritis. Saturated fatty acid deposits in the cartilage change its metabolism and weaken the cartilage, making it more prone to damage. This would, in turn, lead to osteoarthritic pain from the loss of the cushioning effect of cartilage. We also found changes in the bone under the cartilage on a diet rich in saturated fat." Read the abstract and full research paper here