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Osteoarthritis treatment may hold health hazard

June 25, 2012

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common health conditions among older adults, but a popular therapy was recently found to have some possibly damaging side effects. Researchers say flavocoxid, a medical food that's a mix of plant compounds, may be responsible for at least four cases of liver damage, Reuters reports.

The report was published in a recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, and scientists pointed toward four individual cases of temporary liver injury. The symptoms included abdominal pain, jaundice and fever, all of which disappeared after they stopped treatment.

Some experts say the findings are an indictment of other supplements and medical food that promise to offer osteoarthritis relief. Despite the popularity, there is little evidence such products work and they are not subject to the same scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration as other treatments.

"Given the widespread use and potential harm of medical food and food supplements, the policy of marketing these products in the absence of clinical evidence may need to be reconsidered," Stephan Reichenbach and Peter Juni wrote, according to Reuters.

Luckily for older adults, there are treatment options available for osteoarthritis other than medical food or other drugs. According to the Arthritis Foundation, exercise is not only part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, it can also help reduce the pain and stiffness associated with the condition.

Perhaps most important are flexibility exercises. Sometimes referred to as range-of-motion activities, these stretches can be performed every day and are gentle on older bones, but still offer considerable benefits. Many older adults perform them before more strenuous activities to help loosen up. Yoga and tai chi are both popular variations on flexibility exercises.

Staying physically active can help reduce osteoarthritis symptoms felt by millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 27 million adults had osteoarthritis in 2005.