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Obesity 'driving rising arthritis risk in recent generations'

Published on 25 October 2017
Obesity 'driving rising arthritis risk in recent generations'

The rising prevalence of obesity is leading to an increase in the frequency of rheumatoid arthritis cases.

This is according to a new study from the University of Toronto and Krembil Research Institute in Canada, which has indicated that weight problems are cancelling out the positive impact of other lifestyle factors when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis risk.

Arthritis risk increasing over time
The study analysed data from 8,817 people taking part in the Canadian National Population Health Survey between 1994 and 2011 to determine whether successive generations were affected by different arthritis prevalence and risk factors.

Four generational cohorts were analysed in this study: those born in the years during and just before World War II from 1935 to 1944, older baby boomers born between 1945 and 1954, younger baby boomers born from 1955 to 1964, and Generation X children born between 1965 and 1974.

Results published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research showed that more recent cohorts experienced a successively greater prevalence of arthritis, with any positive impact that increasing education and income over time might have had in reducing the arthritis prevalence shown to be counterbalanced by increasing body mass index (BMI).

The evidence also pointed to an earlier age of arthritis onset for obese individuals compared to those of normal weight, further underlying the role excess weight plays.

Devi Sagar, research liaison manager at Arthritis Research UK, said: "Obesity is bad for the joints and can increase the chances of conditions like arthritis.

"As people are living longer, it is important to maintain healthy diets and lifestyles, which promote good musculoskeletal health. We would recommend that people with arthritis speak to their GP or a nutritionist about their diet, and we have lots of information on our website about food to help people maintain a healthy diet."

A significant problem for countries with obesity problems
Although this study took place in Canada, it is likely that other countries with rising obesity problems are also likely to be affected. In the UK, for example, obesity levels have more than trebled in the last 30 years, with current estimates suggesting that more than half the population could be obese by 2050.

It was also noted that these findings may not even demonstrate the full extent of the problem, with the researchers concluding: "Projections that only take into account the changing age structure of the population may underestimate future trends; our understanding of the impact of BMI on arthritis is likely an underestimate.

"Cohort differences focus attention on the need to target arthritis management education to young and middle-aged adults."

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