• Musculoskeletal pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • A new study revealed 25% Americans suffer arthritis due to excess weight
  • Weight loss and obesity prevention in early life prevent future arthritis risk

Nearly 25% arthritis cases in the United States are attributed to excess weight, a new study revealed. The research also pointed out weight loss between early adulthood and midlife significantly reduced the risk of arthritis.

Experts at Boston University (BU) School of Medicine found about 2.7 million people are prone to arthritis due to excess weight. Their study found no evidence of any persistent risk of arthritis among individuals who were heavier earlier in life and then reduced weight.

"Policies that address the social and structural factors that promote weight gain are urgently needed. Our findings suggest that such measures could have a significant impact on reducing the incidence of arthritis, a leading cause of disability and chronic pain in the US," BU School of Public Health (BUSPH) quoted the study’s corresponding author Dr. Andrew Stokes, assistant professor of global health at BUSPH.

Even though losing weight might be a viable way of lowering arthritis risk at the individual level, the researchers found the best solution to achieve it at the population level would be to prevent weight gain.

The research team gathered data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted for adults in the age group 40-69 years and categorized them based on the changes in their BMI from early adulthood to midlife. They then analyzed the link between these BMI trajectories and the risk of developing arthritis within a decade.

Here’s what they found:

  • Of the 13,669 study participants, 3,603 developed arthritis
  • Compared to those who had a normal BMI, in both early adulthood and middle age, individuals who went from normal to overweight and from overweight to obese were all significantly more likely to develop arthritis
  • Those whose BMIs went from obese to overweight had a significantly lower risk of developing arthritis compared to people whose BMI remained in the obese range

The findings of the study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, highlighted the importance of lifelong public health interventions aimed at preventing obesity at younger ages as an important step to curb later life musculoskeletal and joint health problems like osteoarthritis. The authors also opined their findings are particularly important since musculoskeletal pain is the leading cause of disability throughout the world.

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