A bowl of muesli each morning could help prevent arthritis – study

German scientists say high fibre diet plays important role in building strong bones

Eating a bowl of muesli every morning can make your bones stronger and could help prevent arthritis later in life, new research has found.

German scientists from the Friedrich-Alexander Universitat Erlanden-Nunberg (FAU) have discovered that eating a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence on chronic inflammatory joint diseases while helping to build stronger bones.

In an article published earlier this month in Nature Communications, FAU scientists found that the metabolites (the molecules which aid our metabolism) in the bacteria in our gut can affect our immune system and thus have a knock-on effect on auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

While many people perceive bacteria as a negative organism, there are many positive types of bacteria in our intestine which help digest our food. Intestinal bacteria or flora is made up of many different species of bacteria which aid digestion by breaking fibre down into individual components so they can be absorbed by the body.


This process also creates short-chained fatty acids which are important for the body, provide energy, stimulate intestinal movement and have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Intestinal flora can either protect against illness or cause illness, depending on its composition. If the different types of bacteria co-exist harmoniously in the gut, they can protect the intestinal wall and stop infections from passing through.

Scientists in Germany say the short-chain fatty acids produced in our gut can be found in joint fluid, leading them to believe that they have an important effect on the functionality of the joints. They also found that a high concentration of short-chained fatty acids in bone marrow could slow down bone degradation.

They concluded that eating a healthy diet rich in fibre could positively change the bacteria in our gut while creating more of these short-chained fatty acids.

“We were able to show that a bacteria-friendly diet has an anti-inflammatory effect, as well as a positive effect on bone density,” said Dr Mario Zaiss who led the team behind the study.

“Our findings offer a promising approach for developing innovative therapies for inflammatory joint diseases as well as for treating osteoporosis, which is often suffered by women after the menopause. We are not able to give any specific recommendations for a bacteria-friendly diet at the moment, but eating muesli every morning as well as enough fruit and vegetables throughout the day helps to maintain a rich variety of bacterial species.”

Evidence has shown that eating plenty of fibre also helps lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Eating foods with fibre also makes us feel fuller and can prevent constipation. People trying to incorporate more fibre into their diet should switch from starchy foods like white bread and pasta to a wholegrain version. They should eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils and seeds. Dried fruits and nuts are also a good source of fibre.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast