Obesity epidemic behind rheumatoid arthritis

Washington: Obesity epidemic may be linked with the rising incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition which causes inflammation of the joints, especially among women, says a study.

Mayo Clinic researchers studied hundreds of patients and found a history of obesity that places women at significant risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

RA tends to initially impact the hands and feet and then spread to the knees, ankles, hips and shoulders. Complications can include heart problems, lung disease, osteoporosis, the journal Arthritis Care & Research reported.

Researchers relied on medical records covering 1980-2007 and studied 813 adults with rheumatoid arthritis and 813 adults as the control group (without RA), matched by age, gender and calendar year.

Height, weight were noted; roughly 30 percent of the patients in each group were obese and 68 percent were women, said a university statement.

RA cases rose by 9.2 percent per 100,000 women from 1985-2007, the study found. Obesity accounted for 52 percent of the increase.

Smoking also is a substantial risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis, but smoking`s prevalence remained constant over the years studied, ruling it out as an explanation for the rise in rheumatoid arthritis, the study found.

"We know too that obesity is related to many other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and now perhaps to auto-immunity," said study co-author Eric Matteson, who heads the division of rheumatology at Mayo.

"It adds another reason to reduce and prevent obesity in the general population," added Matteson.