A powerful compound abundant in red wine could help millions of osteoarthritis patients battle their daily agony.
Researchers found patients with painful knee joints given resveratrol – found in the skin of red grapes – reported much less pain.
They also had much lower levels of inflammation in their knees, according to the Iraqi scientists behind the study.
Eight million people in the UK and 54 million in the US suffer from osteoarthritis – when the cartilage gradually becomes thin.
It is different to rheumatoid arthritis, a long-term illness in which the immune system causes the body to attack itself.
Despite not being caused by inflammation, patients with osteoarthritis can still have inflamed areas when their cartilage breaks down.
Scientists at the Al-Rafidain University College in Baghdad led the new three-month study of 110 patients.
Half were given a 500mg daily dose of resveratrol alongside 15mg of meloxicam – a drug used to treat pain and inflammation. The others were instead given a placebo.
Blood tests were taken before and after the study to examine levels of inflammatory biomarkers.
Results showed patients given an oral resveratrol supplement had a much lower pain score, compared to their placebo-taking peers.
They also had ‘significantly’ lower levels of blood biomarkers of inflammation common in those battling knee osteoarthritis.
The study also involved scientists at the Shar Teaching Hospital in Kurdistan and was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Resveratrol – an antioxidant also found in peanuts – has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties in an array of studies.
It has also been found to cut harmful cholesterol, protect brain function and lower blood pressure.
However, much of the research on resveratrol has been done in animals and test tubes using high amounts of the compound
Most human studies have focused on supplemental forms of the compound, in super-strength concentrations higher than that found in wine.
The average glass of red wine contains 2mg of resveratrol, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
This means people would need to consume 250 glasses of red wine each day – which would be deadly – to achieve the 500mg used in the study.
Arthritis Research UK said it would be interested to see more research to understand how resveratrol could benefit people in the long term.