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Obesity Associated With Higher Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women But Not Men

Research presented Thursday at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) 2017 suggests that obese women may have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

AFP Relaxnews

Updated:June 16, 2017, 10:35 AM IST
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Obesity Associated With Higher Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women But Not Men
New research suggests that obese women may have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ Tsuji/ Istock.com)
Research presented Thursday at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) 2017 suggests that obese women may have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Carried out by University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark, the study looked at 54,284 subjects (52 percent female), aged between 50 and 64 years old.

Obesity was defined by body mass index (BMI), abdominal obesity, and a higher body fat percentage, with the team collecting measurements on the participants' body fat composition and information on lifestyle factors at the beginning of the study.

During the study, which ran between 1993 and 1997, 283 women and 110 men developed RA during a median follow-up period of 21 years.

After taking into account influencing factors such as age, smoking status, total tobacco consumption, smoking duration, alcohol consumption, socio-economic status, physical activity and total intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the team found that obesity was linked to an increased risk of RA, but only in women.

In men, there was no clear association.

Previous studies which have also looked at a link between weight and RA risk have produced conflicting findings.

"One possible explanation for these inconsistencies is that while BMI is the preferred surrogate measure for being overweight in these studies, BMI only correlates modestly with total amount of body fat and does not accurately reflect fat distribution," explained lead author Dr. Asta Linauskas.

However, Dr Linauskas went on to conclude that, "Our results support an association between the risk of developing RA and three different criteria for being overweight or obese in women. 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."
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