Weight a minute! Obesity may be a culprit, but it’s not the cause of arthritis

(NC)-Obesity and arthritis occur together so frequently that it’s easy to see why many of us blame obesity as the cause of arthritis. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that an “obesity gene” is involved in arthritis.

What we do know is that being overweight is a risk factor for developing arthritis and is a complication for arthritis. Studies show, compared to people of normal weight, overweight women are at almost four times the risk of developing arthritis of the knee, while overweight men are at almost five times the risk.

Excess weight increases the load placed on weight bearing joints such as the hip and knee. That load increases stress on the joint, which may cause premature breakdown of the cartilage. Researchers estimate that we exert a force of between three and six times our body weight on the knee while walking. So, for example, a person of normal weight weighing 75 kilograms will exert a force of between 225 kilograms and 450 kilograms across the knee while walking, whereas an overweight person of, say, 110 kilograms will exert a force of between 330 kilograms and 660 kilograms.

In obese patients, even small amounts of weight loss reduce the risk of developg knee arthritis and may reduce the severity of the arthritis in patients who have already developed the arthritis. Results from some preliminary studies suggest that, in people with arthritis of the knee, weight loss may significantly decrease severity of the pain.

While the symptoms of arthritis – pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of mobility – in weight-bearing joints make exercise difficult, it is worth discussing weight-loss options with your doctor.

– News Canada