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Obesity can up risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women, says study

New research suggests that obese women may have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than men.

fitness Updated: Jun 16, 2017 11:33 IST
Obesity,Arthritis,Rheumatoid arthritis
The researchers caution women with a family history of Rheumatoid Arthritis to try to avoid becoming overweight. (Shutterstock)

Apart from other complications arising out of obesity, it is also linked to a greater risk of arthritis among women. The research has been carried out by University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark and the study looked at 54,284 subjects (52% female), aged between 50 and 64 years.

Obesity was defined by body mass index (BMI), abdominal obesity, and a higher body fat percentage, with the team collecting measurements on the participants’ body fat composition and information on lifestyle factors at the beginning of the study. During the study, which ran between 1993 and 1997, 283 women and 110 men developed RA during a median follow-up period of 21 years.

While BMI is the preferred surrogate measure for being overweight, it only correlates with total body fat and does not accurately reflect fat distribution. ( Shutterstock )

After taking into account influencing factors such as age, smoking status, total tobacco consumption, smoking duration, alcohol consumption, socio-economic status, physical activity and total intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the team found that obesity was linked to an increased risk of RA, but only in women. In men, there was no clear association. Previous studies, which have also looked at a link between weight and RA risk, have produced conflicting findings.

“One possible explanation for these inconsistencies is that while BMI is the preferred surrogate measure for being overweight in these studies, BMI only correlates modestly with total amount of body fat and does not accurately reflect fat distribution,” explained lead author Dr. Asta Linauskas.

However, Dr Linauskas went on to conclude that, “Our results support an association between the risk of developing RA and three different criteria for being overweight or obese in women. We believe RA should be included in the list of all the other medical conditions linked to obesity. It would certainly make sense for women with a family history of RA to try to avoid becoming overweight.”

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First Published: Jun 16, 2017 11:26 IST