February 2017

Obesity and Arthritis

Obesity and Arthritis (Osteo and Rheumatoid) are some of the most frequent issues heard about in the medical community today. Both effect great numbers of people from all walks of society and we have become used to the idea of being able to identify those who might suffer from such things; typically the elderly for Arthritis and the overweight for Obesity. In previous articles I have written I have shown that arthritis can extend to all kinds of people depending on the lifestyle they lead and obesity is no less discriminating. My current concern regarding these seemingly specific medical issues is their link to each other, encouraging further symptoms of illness by being close together. Obesity is the particular culprit in this case as it carries a strong logical link to both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and has been proven to degenerate joints and cartilage at a greater rate than those who are not overweight.



How does it all connect up? 

The answer is probably what you are imagining; more mass on your body leads to more stress on your joints and a greater level of weight that your musculoskeletal structure must cope with. Research has shown that for every 10 pounds of weight that is put on by a person between 30-60 pounds of weight can make it onto the carries it. Keeping this in mind, imagining the number of steps an obese person takes every day gives you a good idea of the load that the body is bearing in this condition. It is well known that osteoarthritis is caused by the degeneration of smooth cartilage that animates the joints and that repetitive activities are a main cause of the condition, so without even doing too much exercise an obese individual can be damaging their joints on a regular basis. The damage in this case falls largely on the knees and the hips, two very common areas for arthritic pain but even more so for the obese who are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop arthritic conditions in these areas.


Does this mean that the obese only have to worry about these areas of the body?

Sadly this is not the case and extensive research has also been conducted into the damaging effects of fat itself on the joints. An excess of fat tissue means that there will be a far higher production of chemicals such as cylokines and adipokines – elements that inherently promote inflammation. Having a healthy amount of these can contribute to the maintenance of a healthy heart, as is the case with most natural numbers of fat, but an obese individual will find that these chemicals restrict the flow of blood to the joints and severely increase the chances of rheumatoid arthritis. Studies in this area were conducted due to the fact that cases of obesity were finding arthritic conditions all over their bodies rather than just the knees, leading doctors and researchers to focus on these specific chemicals that are linked to excess fat.



Having a Body Mass Index of over 25.5 means that obesity is in the playing field,

and thus a whole range of medical conditions (never mind arthritis). Patients are recommended to exercise regularly and to cut down the intake of fatty acids, including omega 3, in order to avoid obesity. There are however a great number of patients suffering obesity who choose surgeries such as gastric balloon and liposuction in order to cut out fat quickly in one sitting. So severe is the issue of obesity and its linked diseases that there are high numbers of medical tourists travelling specifically to treat the condition. Surgeries have proven effective for obesity and there is also stem cell treatment available as an option to stimulate the regeneration of tissue in arthritic joints. The medical community provides for these conditions, but an overall healthier lifestyle can prevent them in the long run.