FRIDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that severe weight gain might raise the risk for rheumatoid arthritis -- a painful, chronic ailment -- especially among obese women.
The epidemiological research indicated that about half of the increase in rheumatoid arthritis cases in one Minnesota county may be linked to rising obesity rates there over three decades.
"The findings outline yet another disease, or disease group, associated with the current obesity epidemic," said study co-author Dr. Sherine Gabriel. "We are likely to see an increasing incidence of rheumatoid arthritis as a result of the increasing prevalence of obesity if we don't address this health crisis."
Moreover, the research suggested that obesity precedes the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, said Gabriel, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The impact of obesity on rheumatoid arthritis risk appeared greater for women in the study, which may be due to the fact that women get the disease three times more often than men. Men often develop the condition later in life, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
The study, conducted at the Mayo Clinic from 1985 to 2007, appeared online recently in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1.3 million Americans, or 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to Arthritis Foundation figures. The autoimmune disorder attacks joint tissues and sometimes organs, causing swelling, inflammation, fever and fatigue. The condition can develop at any time, but it usually develops between the ages of 30 and 60.
The illness is influenced by both genetics and environmental factors, according to background information in the study.
The new research was focused on Olmsted County, Minn., where records of all medical providers have been collected on every
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