Eating 'bad' foods and never exercising cause the cells in our body and joints to become less efficient at producing energy, say researchers from the University of Surrey in a review of arthritis.
The cells start producing too much glucose as a way of overcoming this energy short-fall, but the unused sugars are transformed into lactic acid, which the body can't flush away.
In turn, high levels of lactic acid lead to inflammation in joint cartilage, which makes movement harder and causes pain—and which medicine calls osteoarthritis.
When arthritis is seen as harmful metabolic reprogramming, caused by a poor diet and a lack of exercise, it becomes a disease that can be controlled and its progress slowed—and even avoided in the first place, say the researchers.
As medicine has nothing to offer the arthritis patient—other than painkillers and, eventually, joint replacement surgery—it's a positive message.
Lead author Prof Ali Mobasheri said: "For too long osteoarthritis has been known as the 'wear and tear disease' and it has been assumed that it is part and parcel of getting older. However, this is not the case and what we have learnt is that we can control and prevent the onset of this painful condition."
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and effects 8.75 m Britons alone. Post-menopausal women are predisposed to it because of biology, genetics and hormones, the researchers say.