Lifestyle changes such as improved diet, increased physical activity and weight loss may help prevent osteoarthritis, a common form of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis disproportionately affects post-menopausal women who are more pre-disposed to the condition because of biology, genetics and hormones.
Currently there is no effective treatment for this painful ailment, with only painkillers available to treat symptoms and no known cure.
"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," said lead study author Ali Mobasheri, Professor at the University of Surrey in England.
In the study published in the journal Nature Reviews Rheumatology, the researchers identified a crucial link between metabolism and osteoarthritis.
Metabolic changes, caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, trigger the genetic reprogramming of cells in the body and joints.
Such metabolic changes impact upon the cells ability to produce energy, forcing it to generate alternative sources to function.
The stress this places on cells leads to the overproduction of glucose, which when not used for energy transforms into lactic acid, which is difficult for the body to flush out.
Abnormal levels of this acid in the body leads to the inflammation of the joint's cartilage which impedes on movement and causes pain, the study said.
By identifying metabolic changes in cells, it is potentially possible to control or significantly slow down the symptoms of osteoarthritis, alleviating the suffering of millions of people, the researchers said.
"It is important never to underestimate the significance of a healthy diet and lifestyle as not only does it impact upon our general well being but can alter the metabolic behaviour of our cells, tissues and organs," Mobasheri said.