Onion is a bulb vegetable that is widely used in all parts of the world. There are many different types of onions such as white, red yellow onions. Onions harvested early are called spring onions or scallions.
Onions are a staple in Indian cuisine. Since it’s so common in Indian cuisine and is easily available in Indian markets everywhere, it is highly necessary to understand various health benefits onions can offer with a particular emphasis on arthritis.
Arthritis is a general term used to describe any sort of disorder that affects the joints. Two of the most common types of arthritis in the world are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis generally include inflammation and swelling of joints, the presence of pain and stiffness. This can lead to limited range of motion of joints.
Osteoarthritis (OA)occurs due to age related reasons and joints in knees, hips and fingers are prominently affected. Rheumatoid arthritis is a result of an autoimmune attack by the body’s immune system on its joints. This occurs due to unknown reasons. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) primarily affects hands and feet.
People suffering from RA are often plagued by several complications.
Preferred treatment in both cases involves occupational therapy, administration of analgesics (painkillers), NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), modification of diet and encouraging lifestyle changes that can reduce the symptoms felt and observed in arthritis.
Table of Contents
- 6 Fantastic Benefits of Onion For Arthritis
- How to include onions in diet?
6 Fantastic Benefits of Onion For Arthritis
Here are a few evidence based ways by which onions can benefit in arthritis.
1. It can help reduce inflammation
Chronic inflammation is common in rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation is commonly mediated by substances known as cytokines. Overproduction of these mediators can lead to occurrence of several chronic diseases.
A study conducted on women with rheumatoid arthritis. They were administered a constant dose of quercetin(500mg/day) for a duration of 8 weeks or so.
Quercetin supplementation reduced early morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Factors responsible for inflammation were also suppressed.
Quercetin is a flavonol present abundantly in onions. Flavonoids, in general, are known to modulate immune responses. Different types of flavonoids are flavanols, flavonols, flavones etc. These are produced by plants as secondary metabolites as a means of the defense system.
Flavonoids can regulate or modify the expression of genes of proinflammatory mediators (mediators causing inflammation). Flavonols importantly quercetin, can downregulate the expression of cytokines and its secretion and can reduce inflammation.
What does this mean: Quercetin and other flavonols present in onions can reduce inflammation related to arthritis. This can, in turn, reduce related joint swelling and pain.
2. It boosts antioxidant defense system
Oxidative stress is an important characteristic feature of both osteoarthritides (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) . Oxidative stress arises due to an imbalance in the amount in Reactive oxygen species (ROS)produced and the decreased activity of antioxidants that could fight it.
A large amount of ROS produced can cause damage to tissues and organs and lead to accumulation of even larger amount of ROS. This can further increase the levels of oxidative stress in the body.
ROS in case of OA occurs due to local trauma to the joint, overloads, the formation of lesions and synovial inflammation. This can lead to cartilage destruction, irritated joints.
In case of RA, ROS is produced by phagocytic cells (in simple terms, cells that kill foreign pathogens “by gulping” them, In RA immune cells such as phagocytes can attack its own body parts, here, joints due to unknown reasons). Lipids, proteins and nucleic acids get damaged by ROS.
Inadequate elimination of ROS is directly proportional to the severity of RA observed in patients.
In both cases, decreased activity of antioxidant enzymes such as Superoxide dismutase(SOD), catalase and GPx has been observed.
Antioxidants can help attenuate oxidative stress and prevent tissue damage.
Primarily Quercetin present in onions ameliorates several markers of inflammation thereby attenuating oxidative stress.
It can inhibit the activities of enzymes contributing to inflammation. This, in turn, can affect the production of ROS that is usually produced by processes such as oxidative burst and oxidative phosphorylation (they are pathways through which ROS can be produced by phagocytes).
In general, other flavonol compounds present in onions too can attenuate oxidative stress without compromising the immune action of cells. They can contribute to oxidant scavenging activity due to the nature of their chemical structure.
What does this mean: Antioxidants present in onions can relieve oxidative stress. This can, in turn, prevent any tissue damage from occurring. They are effective in combatting oxidative stress related to both Osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
There is a good possibility that even the onset of arthritis and its symptoms get delayed through the action of antioxidants.
3. It can reduce infection in arthritis
Septic arthritis is often caused by infection of joints by a foreign pathogen. It can be caused due to fungal, bacterial and viral agents. It differs from other types of arthritis. It often more common in artificial joints.
It can cause pain with any movement of the affected joint. Thus, people suffering from septic arthritis often refuse to move their joint and prefer to keep it still. Other symptoms include redness, swelling, and warmth in the affected joint.
In an animal model based study, rutin was found to be beneficial in treating candida infection. Injecting rutin reduced joint edema (swelling due to the accumulation of fluid.) by 45%. This, in turn, led to increased mobility of joints and reduced pain and inflammation.
This anti-arthritic activity was possible due to rutin’s ability to inhibit nitric oxide (nitric oxide can magnify the expression of genes responsible for inflammation and promote cell death) production usually done by immune cells.
Onions contain rutin and consuming onions can be beneficial for those suffering from septic arthritis. Rutin also inhibited the growth or multiplication of the fungus responsible for infection
What does this mean: Consuming onions can possibly decrease the possibilities of getting fungal joint infection or reduce its magnitude. There It can be beneficial to those undergoing joint surgery.
4. It protects joint health
Oxidative stress is a primary event occurring in arthritis. It can possibly lead to cartilage degradation and increase the chronicity associated with arthritis. It heightens the levels of discomfort and pain felt by the individual.
In an animal study, Quercetin was found to reduce inflammation and improve cartilage regeneration. This was due to effects of quercetin.
In another rutin along with other polyphenols, curcumin and oleuropein were studied with respect to their effect on arthritis.
In this experiment, rutin alone or along with curcumin was able to delay effects of arthritis by preventing the loss of aggrecan. Aggrecan is an important cartilage protein. It is known to withstand compression in cartilage and is an integral part of cartilage.
Loss of aggrecan is an important indicator of osteoarthritis. Rutin being able to prevent its loss can have deep seating influence in chronicity of arthritis.
Polyphenols, in general, are known to inhibit cartilage degradation and provide joint protection.
Quercetin itself is a polyphenol. (It is a flavonol, a type of flavonoid which is a phenolic compound). This implies that quercetin can have positive effects on arthritic joints. Onion is known to contain large amounts of quercetin. It also contains rutin which itself is a type of quercetin.
What does this mean: This means that onion can reduce cartilage degeneration and can enhance its regeneration and repair. By doing this it can induce joint protection from further damage.
5. It benefits in rheumatoid arthritis
As we already know, rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by an autoimmune attack on joints due to unknown reasons. Rheumatoid arthritis also presents the possibilities of several different types of complications.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation. Quercetin present in onions can inhibit or modify the gene responsible for this expression and can exert an anti-inflammatory effect.
Further, In RA, synovial pannus formation occurs. This is marked by the presence of new capillaries, proliferating synovial cells (rapid increase in the number of cells) and inflammatory cells. They have characteristics similar to that of tumor cells.
Quercetin can reduce the secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) responsible for the formation of blood capillaries and limit the synovial pannus formation (synovial cavity is the type of joint that is surrounded by a thick membrane and contains a fluid to lubricate joints).
Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) is a family of enzymes responsible for tissue remodeling and Extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation. (Extracellular cellular matrix are substances secreted by cells into the surroundings for support).
They can break down major components such as collagen, elastins etc. An increase in the activity of these enzymes is seen in RA patients. This is the reason for the cartilage and bone damage often seen in RA patients.
Quercetin present in onions can reduce the activity of MMPs and prevent bone and cartilage damage from occurring.
What does this mean: Consuming onions can delay or prevent extensive damage to joints that occur in RA.
6. It reduces arthritis complications
NSAIDs and analgesics are often prescribed to arthritis patients in order to help them cope with the associated pain. These drugs often cause gastritis or erosion of the protective mucus lining the inner stomach. Erosion of this lining can often lead to the formation of stomach ulcers.
Onions have quercetin that can help reduce the secretion of gastric acid and limit ulcer formation. It also induced increased production gastric mucus and prevent its erosion.
People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are at a larger risk of developing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is characterized by plaque formation, consisting of cholesterol, WBCs and triglycerides.
Thus, a high level of cholesterol can increase the risk for strokes, heart attacks etc.
In a human study, healthy subjects with mild hypocholesteremia were asked to consume onion juice every day, for 8 weeks.
At the end of the study levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) vastly decreased.
In general, Flavonoids are known to exert anti-atherosclerotic, anti- hypertensive properties.
Quercetin is present in onion juice. They can help decrease platelet aggregation and enhance dilation of arteries, thereby improving the condition of the endothelium. This is necessary dysfunction of endothelium is related to increased occurrence of atherosclerosis.
What does this mean: Onions can help control cardiovascular complications associated with arthritis. They also assist in possibly reducing the side effects that occur due to anti arthritic medications
How to include onions in diet?
Onions are so versatile they can be boiled, sautéed, fried to be incorporated into dishes. They can be even consumed raw and provide maximum benefits when done so. Methods of cooking such as sauté and frying do not lead to loss of nutrients (importantly flavonoids) but boiling can lead to a 30% loss of the nutrients present in onions.
Methods of cooking such as sauté and frying do not lead to loss of nutrients (importantly flavonoids) but boiling can lead to a 30% loss of the nutrients present in onions.
Red onions offer maximum benefits in case of arthritis. This is due to the fact that they contain a lot of flavonols.
Allergic reactions after handling onions have been reported. This was attributed to the probable proteins that get denatured once the onion cooks. Symptoms such as nausea, skin itching etc. was observed. In case of any uncanny feeling on consumption of onions, one must report to a doctor immediately.
Onions provide multiple benefits.
One of the most significant components of onions is quercetin that is responsible for decreasing the damage related to arthritis. Consuming onions thus, can benefit arthritic patients in multiple ways and increase the quality of their life.