The nation’s obesity crisis is driving a near-epidemic in arthritis in women, a new Mayo Clinic study shows.
The researchers, writing in the American College of Rheumatology journal Arthritis Care & Research, examined 813 people with the painful autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis between 1980 and 2007 and found obesity was a significant contributing factor to the condition – particularly in women.
"We know that fat tissues and cells produce substances that are active in inflammation and immunity. We know too that obesity is related to many other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and now perhaps to autoimmunity," said lead researcher Dr. Eric Matteson, a Mayo Clinic rheumatology expert. "It adds another reason to reduce and prevent obesity in the general population."
In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks tissues, causing pain and inflammation in joints. It is more common in women than in men and complications can include heart problems, lung disease, osteoporosis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
For the new study, researchers examined medical records of 813 adults with rheumatoid arthritis and compared them to 813 healthy people. About 30 percent of the patients in each group were obese and 68 percent were women.
Results of the study showed rheumatoid arthritis cases rose by 9.2 per 100,000 women from 1985-2007. Obesity accounted for 52 percent of the increase.