Obesity Linked to Increased Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis Among Women

Rheumatoid arthritis should be included to list of medical conditions linked to obesity.

Women who are obese or overweight—–defined by body mass index (BMI), abdominal obesity, and a higher body fat percentage­­––have a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a new study suggests.

However, no clear associations were observed between the risk of RA and the different criteria for being overweight and obese in men, the authors noted. The findings were presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology 2017.

For the study, investigators recruited 54,284 participants (52% female), aged 50 to 64 years, between 1993 and 1997.

Body fat composition measurements, as well as data on lifestyle factors, were collected at enrollment. The participants were followed until RA development, death, loss to follow-up, or October 2016, whichever came first. Those who developed RA were identified through linkage to The Danish National Patient Registry.

During a median follow-up of 21 years, the results of the study showed that 283 women and 110 men developed RA. The mean time to onset of the disease was 7 years.

To further define the relationship between body fat percentage and the risk of RA, the investigators performed a “restricted cubic spline” statistical analysis. A positive slope in women confirmed a direct relationship, but there was no linear association among men.

“Our results support an association between the risk of developing RA and 3 different criteria for being overweight or obese in women,” said lead author Dr Asta Linauskas. “We believe RA should be included in the list of all the other medical conditions linked to obesity. It would certainly make sense for women with a family history of RA to try to avoid becoming overweight.”

RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints, causing pain and inflammation. In the United States, an estimated 1.3 million individuals are living with RA.