Obesity and the Risk of Arthritis

Almost all the basic medical information available about arthritis indicates that losing weight is a good strategy for fighting it. (1) (2) (3) Being overweight or obese seems to increase the pain in certain joints, especially below the hips in the feet and legs, (4) by sufferers of arthritis. This is partly due to gravitational and mechanical load issues, but there is also evidence that certain hormones produced by excess body-fat increase the pain felt in the body. (5) There is also evidence that at least in gout, which is a variation of arthritis or an affliction similar to it in symptoms, the pain is caused by the buildup of certain substances in the body because of an inadequate diet, that may also be related to obesity. (6)

Arthritis itself, or at least the pain and discomfort that comes with it, is caused by inflammation of the joints, because of the wearing down of cartilage, which has allowed bones to touch or rub together. (7) Because arthritis is so complicated an illness, it has become just an umbrella word that encompasses some 100 different forms. (8) The most significant type of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis, which is also called degenerative joint disease. (9) This comes about through excessive use or trauma to certain joints that can come about through lifestyle or simply by age. (10) There are other types of arthritis as well, the most common of which are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis as well as septic arthritis. (11)

Arthritis and obesity

The two most relevant forms of arthritis to obesity are osteoarthritis, as well as gout. Obesity can significantly affect the pain experienced by sufferers of these two types of arthritis. Since it has been shown in obesity research that each human being is genetically ‘hard-wired’ to be a certain height, weight and body-composition, provided a normal intake of food based on the bodies’ base metabolic rate, the body will attempt to normalize itself to this genetic code over time. (12) But when a person becomes obese, a number of factors occur that end up throwing the genetic hard-wiring off track. First, adipose tissue, or body-fat, accumulates in such vast amounts that a number of substances which are normally released in adequate levels flood the human body. (13) Leptin, a hormone primarily responsible for appetite-suppression suddenly fills the bloodstream in such vast quantities that the body becomes immune to its effects. (14) Additionally, body-fat is also responsible for releasing another type of substance called adipokines or cytokines, which are responsible for pain management in the body and interact with the nervous system. (15) Once again, when there is an overabundance of this in the body, feelings of pain can be increased. In addition to the imbalances of these substances, there is also the physical strain of having to carry a body-weight that is not specifically what that body was genetically coded to carry. Add to this the effects of gravity and there is significantly more pressure exerted on the lower half of the body than is normal. (16) It is in this three-fold way that arthritis interacts with body-fat, in other words with obesity.

Treating arthritis with obesity

Although there isn’t a cure for arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, is is possible to induce this condition by injuries and or long-term exposure of the lower half of the body to far too much body-weight. (17) Osteoarthritis develops naturally in humans as a result of aging and general wear and tear of the body and particularly the cartilage between the joints. (18) This can, however, be increased significantly by the factors related to obesity or alternately, a very physically active lifestyle, especially for athletes involved in dangerous contact sports, or sports such as running where certain parts of the body are constantly under painful, localized shock-absorbtion. (19)

Treating arthritis is possible though and it is generally advised that to lessen the feelings of pain associated with the illness, or sometimes to even make the pain go away for years at a time, to begin working on balancing your body’s metabolic system, especially if you are suffering from metabolic syndrome. (20) If you are already suffering from severe osteoarthritis, then it is best to consult your doctor or pediatrician to find out the best way to tackle the problem and relieve pain. At first, common medications may be prescribed to deal with the pain at once. (21) Pain relievers are usually the first line of attack, which are tailored specifically to your medical record. The second way to deal with arthritic pains is to develop a type of exercise regime which is not too hard on the body. Exercise can help strengthen the areas of the body where the pain is, especially for those people who came from a sedentary lifestyle. (22)

Losing weight

If you are obese and suffering from arthritis, it is highly recommended by doctors to lose weight and attempt to keep it off. (23) There are several very effective diets which you can consult your doctor about that can be tailored specifically to your tastes. The important thing to remember with all dieting is that you pick a diet that becomes a lifestyle, because if you just lose weight fast and then return to your old habits, you’ll gain the weight back even faster than before. For most people, losing a large amount of weight at the start of a diet is inevitable, especially if you are obese, as fat cells are actually largely made up of bodies of water with oil droplets in them. (24) Losing this ‘water weight’ is actually the easy part of the diet, but reducing the more densely packed fat that comes after that can be a plateau most dieters find it difficult to overcome. Whatever your choice for diet, you should know that returning your body to the shape it was genetically coded for will allow you to enjoy life longer without the pains of osteoarthritis getting in the way.