Relationship Between Protein Intake and Joint Pain

The relationship between protein intake and joint pain is a complex and sometimes misunderstood one. Joint pain itself is confusing because there are so many different causes. Recently, it has been shown that a diet high in protein may worsen joint pain in people with some medical conditions.

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Arthritis is a condition that involves chronic pain and inflammation of the joints. For people with arthritis, eating protein-rich foods often may actually worsen joint pain. A low protein diet may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis, such as inflammation and pain.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition involving pain in the joints and muscles. A journal published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology suggests that a vegan diet alleviates symptoms of fibromyalgia such as joint pain. Vegan diets exclude meat, eggs and dairy, which are all high in protein. Therefore, it can be presumed that a low protein diet may help relieve joint pain.


Many foods that are high in protein contain organic compounds called purines, which are converted into uric acid by the body. In some people, such as those who have a condition called gout, eating foods high in purines causes extreme pain. Low protein diets (which are usually also low in purines) can reduce joint pain caused by gout.

High Protein Foods

High protein foods include meats such as beef, chicken, turkey and fish, as well as eggs and most dairy products. Beans, nuts and lentils are also high in protein, but do not have as much protein as animal products do.

Fruits and Vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are low in protein and also low in calories. While protein can increase inflammation caused by arthritis, the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, combined with the fact that they are low in protein, mean they can actually reduce inflammation from arthritis.