We’re all aware of the main health benefits of controlled weight loss: the decrease in the risk of diabetes and heart disease. However, there is another significant benefit of maintaining a healthy weight – the impact on our joints.
It goes without saying that obesity can do serious damage to the joints, particularly the knee joints, and previous research has demonstrated that overweight and obese individuals with knee osteoarthritis can reduce pain by 50% and significantly improve function and mobility with a 10% or more weight loss over an 18-month period. Now researchers from the Wake Forest University in North Carolina have fleshed out those findings with more revelations.
The latest findings, which were published in Arthritis Care & Research, reveal that losing 20% or more of your body weight has the added benefit of continued improvement in physical health-related quality of life – along with an additional 25% reduction in pain and improvement in function.
Take the load off
The study, which involved 240 overweight and obese middle-aged adults who suffered from pain and knee osteoarthritis, divided the participants into four groups according to how much weight they lost over an 18-month period and put them through an assortment of interviews and tests.
The researchers found that the greater the weight loss, the better participants fared in terms of pain, function, 6-minute walk distance, physical and mental health-related quality of life, knee joint compression force, and IL-6, a marker of inflammation. Not only that, but when comparing the two highest groups – the ones which lost 10% of their body weight and the group which lost 20% – the latter group had 25% less pain and better function than the former, and a significantly better health-related quality of life.
There’s something fishy about knee arthritis prevention
The obvious explanation for this is that the less weight you put on your joints, there less chance there is of causing damage, which will lead to a welter of OA issues, but it’s not as simple as that, as another study into knee arthritis prevention from the University of Surrey bears out. According to their findings, a gram of fish oil per day could help reduce pain levels for osteoarthritis sufferers, as well as reduce inflammation in the joints – a key factor in knee pain.
Furthermore, the study thoroughly recommends a calorie-restricted diet for overweight and obese people with OA issues, for two main reasons: to speed up weight loss, and also deal with high blood cholesterol, which is a key factor in osteoarthritis.
With osteoarthritis, prevention is better than cure – mainly because there is no cure yet. And as both studies bear out, the best shot we all have in preventing an ailment which affects over 8,750,000 people in the UK and 15% of the entire planet is a healthy lifestyle and a sensible diet. Bottom line: the more you have to lose, the more you have to gain.