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Overweight rheumatoid arthritis patients 'less likely to achieve remission'

Published on 21 December 2017
Overweight rheumatoid arthritis patients 'less likely to achieve remission'

People who are overweight or obese are less likely to achieve positive responses to early treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

This is according to a new US study from the Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell Medical School in New York, which has underlined the need for better weight management among those affected by or at risk for the disease.

The impact of obesity on remission rates
A total of 982 Canadian patients were enrolled in the study, published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research, which aimed to determine the potential impact of weight on the likelihood that patients would achieve remission in the early years after an rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

Of these, around one-third were of a healthy weight, while one-third were overweight and one-third were obese. Within three years, 36 percent of patients experienced sustained remission.

The results showed that those who were overweight were 25 per cent less likely to experience sustained remission compared to patients with a healthy body mass index, while those who were obese were 47 per cent less likely to do so, despite receiving similar treatments.

A need for better weight management among people with arthritis
This represents the largest study demonstrating the negative impact of excess weight on rheumatoid arthritis disease activity, and is particularly pertinent because the subjects had all been recently diagnosed with early forms of the disease - meaning they should have the best outcomes and responses to treatment.

As such, the findings underline a need to better identify and address the risk of excess weight in these patients.

Dr Susan Goodman, of the Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell Medical School, said: "These findings have important implications for clinical care, since rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise.

"Our findings highlight the high proportion of newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients who are overweight or obese and who may have disease that is harder to treat. For people with rheumatoid arthritis who haven't had an adequate response to treatment, this may be another factor to consider."

Arthritis Research UK's view
Dr Devi Rani Sagar, research liaison manager at Arthritis Research UK, said: "We welcome research that can help people improve the chances of their rheumatoid arthritis going into remission.

"We know that early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is critical and can improve the effectiveness of a patient's treatment. This study may point to other factors such as weight, also playing a role in the effectiveness of early treatment.

"We advise that people with arthritis speak to their GP about their diet and we have lots of information on our website about diet and exercise to help people maintain a healthy weight."

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