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Excess Weight Speeds Up Osteoarthritis
Date:7/14/2009

Rapid loss of knee cartilage directly linked to being overweight in study

TUESDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- If fear of heart disease and diabetes isn't enough reason to slim down, here's another: Being overweight or obese can cause rapid deterioration of the cartilage in the knee, leading to osteoarthritis, researchers report.

Osteoarthritis usually progresses slowly, but some patients experience a more rapid progression. This is the first study to connect obesity with fast progression of the disease and cartilage loss.

The report is published in the August issue of Radiology.

The researchers recruited 336 patients from a major osteoarthritis study. All were overweight and at risk of osteoarthritis, but had minimal or no loss of cartilage in their knees, said the researchers, who were led by Dr. Frank W. Roemer, an adjunct associate professor at Boston University and co-director of the quantitative imaging center in the department of radiology at Boston University School of Medicine.

During 30 months of follow-up, 20.2 percent of the patients showed a slow loss of knee cartilage and 5.8 percent had rapid cartilage loss, the study found.

The main risk factors for cartilage loss were pre-existing cartilage damage, being overweight or obese, tears or other injury to the cartilage at the knee joint (meniscus), and severe lesions seen on an MRI. Other factors include inflammation of the membrane lining the joints and abnormal build-up of fluid in the joint, according to the report.

Being overweight was associated with rapid cartilage loss, Roemer's team found. In fact, for every one-unit increase in body mass index, the chances of rapid cartilage loss increased 11 percent.

The association between obesity and rapid cartilage loss remained even after taking into account age, gender and ethnic background.

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