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Public Health and Sport Sciences

Blueberries and osteoarthritis

Highbush blueberry supplementation for osteoarthritis pain, intra-articular inflammation and post-operative recovery in total knee replacement patients.


Osteoarthritis is a painful long-term joint condition that is associated with poor quality of life. There are no treatments to prevent it. Inflammation is one cause of osteoarthritis.

Blueberries in a bowl and on the table around it

How do blueberries improve osteoarthritis?

Blueberries are rich in natural chemicals called polyphenols; these have well-established anti-inflammatory effects. Blueberries and other fruits may improve osteoarthritis symptoms, but we don’t know how this improvement happens. It may be that these foods reduce inflammation within the joint tissues. We will investigate this.

This will help us to understand:

  1. how blueberries improve osteoarthritis symptoms, and
  2. whether dietary supplementation with blueberries could slow down joint damage in osteoarthritis, rather than just improving symptoms.

Additionally, high levels of joint inflammation predict poorer recovery from joint replacement surgery. Therefore, blueberry supplementation may hasten this recovery.

Our study

We are conducting a study in people who are scheduled to have a knee replacement for osteoarthritis. They will receive either six weeks blueberry supplementation or a placebo pre-surgery. Participants will continue the supplementation for six weeks after surgery.

This study will use tissue samples (cartilage, fat and the joint lining called synovium) obtained during surgery to investigate the effects of pre-operative blueberry supplementation on markers of joint inflammation. Second, this study will assess the ability of dietary supplementation with blueberries to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Finally, this study will investigate the effect of blueberry supplementation on recovery from total knee replacement.

Our investigations may provide evidence to support dietary supplementation with blueberries to slow down osteoarthritis progression and to improve recovery from osteoarthritis joint replacement surgery.

Project partners

This work is funded by The US Highbush Blueberry Council. The team involved are, Dr Mary O’Leary, Prof Jo Bowtell and Dr Lauren Struszczak.

Find out more about this project and how it fits into nutritional physiology research across the department.