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Investigating the Link between RA and Obesity

Research shows this obese women could develop RA With obesity rates still on the rise, medical researchers have noticed that the prevalence of other diseases is going up as well. In fact, one disease that could be linked to higher rates of obesity is rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that the rates of rheumatoid arthritis have increased over the last few decades, but could the higher rates of obesity be the cause?

According to the results of a recent rheumatoid arthritis clinical study , people who were in that obese weight range were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than people who were in a healthier weight range. The findings suggest that the rates of rheumatoid arthritis will continue to climb unless the nation’s weight gain is better controlled. As more people develop this autoimmune condition, there will be higher demands for more arthritis-related care, and this could create enormously expensive health care costs.

Controlling Weight to Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

This latest rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial was conducted by a team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic. According to the lead investigators, obesity has gone under-recognized as a potential risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, but this is something that they seek to change. Over the last few years, both obesity and rheumatoid arthritis have been on the rise, and people can no longer continue to overlook this.

Their primary objective of this study was to determine if there was a definitive link between the “obesity epidemic” and the recent increase in the number of people being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

For this rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial, the team enrolled 813 participants with rheumatoid arthritis and 813 without arthritis. Further analysis showed that 30 percent of the participants in each group qualified as obese. The results showed that participants with a history of unhealthy weight had 1.24 times as high a chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to those with no history of obesity.

Forgotten Link between Obesity and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Over the course of just 22 years, the prevalence of new cases of rheumatoid arthritis has increased by 9.2 per 100,000 cases for women. Clinical research has shown that obesity was the underlying cause for about 52 percent of this jump. Astonishingly, it seems that obesity’s impact on this chronic condition has been all but forgotten in recent years, with other genetic and environmental factors receiving much more attention.

The environmental factors that likely have the largest impact on the development of rheumatoid arthritis are various oral contraceptives and cigarette smoking. However, there has not been any serious fluctuation in the prevalence of these factors over the last few years, so it is highly unlikely that they could be the underlying cause of the recent rise in new cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

How Can Obesity Cause RA?

This clinical study did not fully explain why obesity may cause rheumatoid arthritis in certain patients, but the lead investigators have formed some theories. One possible explanation could be the relationship between obesity and inflammation, one of the primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Another possible reason for this link is that obese patients often do not have enough vitamin D. Previous studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency could increase an individual’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers have also looked into the relationship between obesity and sex hormones, which can also play a potential role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Last but not least, there could be a genetic link between obesity and other autoimmune diseases, such as psoriatic arthritis. Similar to RA, psoriatic arthritis occurs when the immune system begins to attack healthy tissues, and it produces inflammation.

In conclusion, this clinical trial has shown that obese patients have a moderate risk of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. With the steady rise in obesity, this potential risk factor seems to have an important impact on the recent rise in rheumatoid arthritis cases, especially the increase in the incidence of RA among women. The results of this RA clinical trial have been published in the December issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

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