According to researchers from the University of Utah's Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational Environmental Health, obesity may lead to more than half of the 850,000 knee surgeries performed each year. They point to a correlation between excess weight and torn cartilage, yet another harmful side effect of obesity. The study team reviewed 544 surgical cases involving cartilage tears between 1996 and 2000 among women and men aged 50 to 79. They found that a person with a body mass index higher than the healthy range was 3 times more likely to have a tear in the meniscus, the shock-absorbing cartilage in the knee. The heaviest men in the study were 15 times more likely to have torn knee cartilage and the heaviest women were 25 times more likely. While cartilage breaks down over time, the numbers were too high for researchers to ignore a link between obesity and meniscal injuries; they suspect that it is more than the added pressure put on the knees. Dr. Kurt Hegmann, study leader, suggests that circulation problems may reduce the blood supply to the cartilage.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.