Weight Loss May Spare Knee Cartilage, Study Finds

More than 21 million Americans have osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease characterized by inflammation and loss of cartilage within the joints. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, such as age, family history and previous injury, but one of the greatest risk factors is obesity.

Being overweight is recognized as one of the greatest contributors to the incidence and progression of osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees. Research shows that being just 10 pounds overweight places an additional 30 to 60 pounds of force on the knees with every step. Weight loss has long been recommended by doctors to ease joint pain and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis. Now, researchers have evidence showing that greater weight loss produces greater results.

A recent study evaluated the effects of weight loss in over 500 overweight and obese Americans who had been diagnosed with mild to moderate osteoarthritis or had risk factors for the disease. The subjects were randomly assigned to a group that lost more than 10 percent of their overall body weight, a group that lost a small amount of weight, or a control group that lost no weight.

After a follow-up period of four years, researchers noted that participants who lost a large amount of weight had more protection against cartilage degeneration than participants in other groups. Interestingly, participants who lost just 5 to 10 percent of their overall body weight had almost the same rate of cartilage degeneration as those who lost not weight at all.

Study author Dr. Alexandra Gersing, from the department of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, said that weight loss, along with moderate exercise, is one of the best ways to prevent osteoarthritis. Weight loss not only slows down the rate of cartilage degeneration, but it helps to reduce disease risk overall (Source: WebMD).

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