Weight Loss Benefits for Arthritis
Learn how you can reduce joint pain by losing weight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 72 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. The agency also reports that almost 23 percent of overweight and 31 percent of obese Americans have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. That adds up to a lot of people whose joints could feel better by shedding extra pounds.
Here are some ways reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can help ease your arthritis.
Reduce pressure on your joints. A key study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism of overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA) found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees. In other words, losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.
Ease pain. Multiple studies show that losing weight results in arthritis pain relief. A 2018 study published in Arthritis Care and Research went further to find that losing more weight – to an extent -- results in more pain relief. The study of overweight and obese older adults with pain from knee OA found that greater weight loss resulted in better outcomes than losing a smaller amount of weight. Losing 10–20 percent of starting bodyweight improved pain, function, and quality of life better than losing just five percent of bodyweight.
Reduce inflammation. Fat itself is an active tissue that creates and releases pro-inflammatory chemicals. By reducing fat stores in the body, your body’s overall inflammation will go down. A 2018 article published in Autoimmunity Reviews explained that obesity can activate and sustain body-wide low-grade inflammation. This inflammation can amplify and aggravate autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and their associated comorbidities (like heart disease).
Reduce Disease Activity. Losing weight can reduce the overall severity of your arthritis. A 2018 study published in International Journal of Clinical Rheumatology reviewed the records of 171 RA patients and found that overweight or obese people who lost at least 5 kg (10.2 pounds) were three times as likely to have improved disease activity compared to those who did not lose weight. A smaller 2019 study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy found that short-term weight loss in obese people with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) yielded “significant positive effects” on disease activity in joints, entheses, and skin.
Improve Chance of Remission. Several studies have shown that being obese reduces your chance of achieving minimal disease activity or remission if you have RA or PsA. A 2017 review article published in Arthritis Care and Research analyzed data from more than 3,000 people with RA and found that obese patients had lower odds of achieving and sustaining remission compared with non-obese people. A 2018 article in Joint, Bone, Spine analyzed several studies totaling more than 3,800 patient records. The authors found that obesity “hampered the effects of anti-TNF agents” and showed that the odds of reaching a good response or achieving remission were lower in obese than non-obese patients taking anti-TNF biologics.
Lower Uric Acid Levels and Chance of Gout Attack. A 2017 analysis of 10 studies, published in Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, found that weight loss was beneficial for obese or overweight people with gout. Overall, people who lost weight had lower serum uric acid levels and fewer gout attacks.
Slows Cartilage Degeneration in OA. A 2017 study published in Radiology assessed magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of osteoarthritic knees in 640 overweight or obese people. Participants who lost weight over 4 years showed significantly lower cartilage deterioration. The more weight lost, the lower the rate of disease progression.
Weight loss is a tough endeavor, but if you are overweight, no single action can provide as many positive effects on the body. Not only does it lower your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and certain types of cancer, but it helps your arthritis as well. Talk to your health care provider about starting a weight loss program
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