The Ache on the Joints of Bigger Women

Arthritis likelier to occur among obese women compared to obese men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Excessive pounds can put added pressure on the joints of obese individuals. Man or woman, that added pressure may contribute to arthritis. But new research suggests that obesity may have a bigger impact on arthritis in women than in men.

A recent study found that obese women were more likely to have arthritis than obese men.

While arthritis incidence increased with age, the condition was found more often among non-active individuals and less often among active individuals, according to the authors of this study.

"Work with a nutritionist to help manage your weight."

Gino De Angelis, MSc, and Yue Chen, MD, PhD, from the Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada, investigated whether being obese or female increased the likelihood of having arthritis.

The researchers looked at data on almost 95,000 participants who took the Canadian Community Health Survey between 2007 and 2008. The survey included participants from various regions across all Canadian provinces.

Participants were considered obese if their body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of height and weight together, was over 30. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal; a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.

The researchers tracked patients' age, smoking status and level of physical activity. Race, marital status and household income were also taken into account.

The researchers found that about one out of three obese women had arthritis. Specifically, 29.8 percent of obese women had arthritis, compared to 18 percent of obese men.

In total, 23.5 percent of obese individuals had arthritis, compared to 14.5 percent of non-obese people.

Looking at age, the researchers found that almost half of those who were over 60 years of age and obese had arthritis. Among non-active and active individuals, 26.1 and 18.1 percent, respectively, had arthritis.

"In summary, individually obesity and female sex appeared to be risk factors for arthritis," the researchers wrote in their report. "There appeared to be a synergistic effect when female sex and obesity were combined on the prevalence of arthritis."

Because the researchers measured obesity and arthritis at the same time, they noted that they could not determine which condition developed first among the participants who had both conditions.

In addition, the authors noted that BMI is not the best measure for obesity, as BMI does not take into account naturally lean or very muscular individuals.

"The results of recent studies suggest yet another complication associated with overweight could be increased probability of developing arthritis. Not only does arthritis seem to develop more frequently in people with a high body mass (BMI), arthritis also seems to develop at a younger age. Though losing weight may not reverse joint damage already done,  weight loss can reduce the pain associated with damaged joints," Govind Koka, DO, Co-Medical Director of Advanced Urgent Care, told dailyRx News.

"Additional studies suggest losing even a small amount of weight--10 to 20 pounds--seems to decrease the potential for escalating damage. Losing weight and reducing body mass (BMI) into normal ranges has a multitude of benefits. Among them, decreasing the potential for developing arthritis and subsequent joint damage seem to be one of these benefits," said Dr. Koka.

The authors suggested that future research should look at how obesity and gender together affect the prevalence of arthritis.

This study, supported by a scholarship from the University of Ottawa, was published in the September issue of Rheumatology International.

Review Date: 
September 1, 2013
Last Updated:
September 5, 2013