Lead investigator of the study, Lauren Abbate says, “We hear a lot of messages about how obesity affects cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but arthritis is often overlooked. Osteoarthritis is painful and debilitating. Effective treatments are limited and there’s not a cure. But if we can get people to lose weight we may reduce their risk and reduce the pain and disability associated with this condition.
Researchers used data from the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, one of the largest ongoing population-based studies of arthritis in the world. Included in the study were nearly 1,500 men and women aged 45 and older who were disease-free in at least one knee. They were followed for six years to see who developed x-ray confirmed osteoarthritis – almost two thirds were women and more than 25 percent were African Americans.
Researchesr then divided people into categories based on weight change: people who lost 5 percent or more of their total body weight, people who maintained within 3 percent above or below their weight, and people who gained 5 percent or more than their weight. Abbate adds, “It was our hope that people who maintained weight would have reduced risk, but obesity is such a strong risk factor for OA, that maintaining weight shoed no significant benefit.”
Weight loss can be difficult for many to achieve. But, Abbate claims that people can aim for losing a certain percentage of their weight instead of shooting for an ideal number. She says, “For someone who weighs 200 pounds, losing 5 percent just means losing 10 pounds.”