What is the role of obesity in the etiology of osteoarthritis (OA)?

Updated: Jun 10, 2020
  • Author: Carlos J Lozada, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Obesity increases the mechanical stress in a weight-bearing joint. It has been strongly linked to osteoarthritis of the knees and, to a lesser extent, of the hips. A study that evaluated the associations between body mass index (BMI) over 14 years and knee pain at year 15 in 594 women found that a higher BMI at year 1 and a significant increase in BMI over 15 years were predictors of bilateral knee pain at year 15. [40] The association between BMI increase and knee pain was independent of radiographic changes.

In addition to its mechanical effects, obesity may be an inflammatory risk factor for osteoarthritis. Obesity is associated with increased levels (both systemic and intra-articular) of adipokines (cytokines derived from adipose tissue), which may promote chronic, low-grade inflammation in joints. [45]


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