Diet quality and disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis

Maureen E. McGarrity-Yoder, Kathleen C. Insel, Tracy E. Crane, Thaddeus W.W. Pace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective:This study examined associations between diet quality and disease activity in adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Perceived stress was also compared to diet and disease activity. Methods: In a cross-sectional design, 50 adults with RA were recruited. The Arizona Food Frequency Questionnaire was used to measure dietary intake (four weeks) and diet quality scores were calculated with the Healthy Eating Index – 2015. Perceived stress was measured with the Perceived Stress Scale. Disease activity was measured with the Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index and Pain Scale, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and Disease Activity Score Including 28 Joints-ESR. Results: Diet quality (56; SD ± 12) in participants was lower than the national mean (59). Age (p = 0.015) and gender (p = 0.003) were associated with higher diet quality. The belief that diet affects RA disease activity was reported by 44% of the participants, and these participants were significantly more likely to report dietary changes (p < 0.0001). Higher educational level (at least some college) was associated with this belief (B = −1.535, p = 0.023). Participants with lower diet quality also had significantly higher pain (B = −0.396, p = 0.022) and ESR scores (p = 0.019). Women were more likely to have higher HAQ-DI scores (B = 0.570, p = 0.001). Perceived stress was significantly associated with HAQ-DI and pain scores (B = 0.445, p = 0.001 and B = 0.289, p = 0.042, respectively). Medical cannabis was reportedly used by 8% of participants. Conclusion: In RA patients, lower diet quality may be associated with more pain and inflammation, and perceived stress may be associated with higher disability and disease activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-590
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Diet quality
  • disease activity
  • inflammation
  • pain
  • rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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