Doctors from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have published results from a new study demonstrating obese people who lose a substantial amount of weight can significantly slow degeneration of cartilage in the knee, a common site of osteoarthritis. The study results were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is a major cause of pain and disability, and obesity is a significant risk factor known to accelerate the loss of cartilage. Once cartilage is lost in osteoarthritis, the disease cannot be reversed.
Degenerative joint disease affects more than a third of adults over the age of 60, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with aging baby boomers and a rise in obesity contributing to an increased prevalence of knee osteoarthritis. In many people whose knees are afflicted, the condition progresses until total knee replacement becomes necessary.
Dr. Gersing and colleagues from the UCSF recently investigated the association between different degrees of weight loss and the progression of knee cartilage degeneration in 506 overweight and obese patients from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a nationwide research study focused on the prevention and treatment of knee osteoarthritis. The patients either had mild to moderate osteoarthritis or risk factors for the disease.
Patients were divided into three groups: a control group who did not lose weight, a second group who lost a little weight, and a third group who lost more than 10 percent of their body weight. The researchers then used MRI to evaluate cartilage in the knee joint.
When the researchers analyzed differences in the quality of cartilage among the three groups over a four-year time span they found that cartilage degenerated a lot slower in the group that lost more than 10 percent of their body weight, especially in the weight-bearing regions of the knee.
According to the study author “substantial weight loss not only slows knee joint degeneration – it also reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis”. Along with moderate exercise, weight loss is one of the primary interventions against the disease.
UCSF Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging. (2015.) UCSF study reveals weight loss protects knees. Retrieved from http://www.radiology.ucsf.edu/blog/ucsf-study-reveals-weight-loss-protects-knees