Excess Weight May Be a Risk Factor for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women

Sarfaroj Khan 


October 15, 2020


  • Higher body mass index (BMI) in middle age, BMI in early adulthood and waist circumference were associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

  • The positive association between BMI in middle age and RA was restricted to women.

Why this matters

  • Findings suggest that prevention strategies targeting weight reduction and maintenance of a healthy weight may reduce the burden of RA.

Study design

  • 13 cohort studies met eligibility criteria after a search across PubMed and Embase databases.

  • Random effects models were used to estimate summary relative risk (RR) for RA in relation to different measures of adiposity.

  • Funding: None disclosed.

Key results

  • The summary RR per 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI was 1.11 (95% CI, 1.05-1.18; I2, 50%).

  • In subgroup analyses, a positive association was seen between BMI in middle age and RA in women (RR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.08-1.21) but not in men (RR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.73-1.09; I2, 58%).

  • The summary RR per 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI in early adulthood (at age 18 years) and per 10 cm increase in waist circumference was 1.17 (95% CI, 1.01-1.36) and 1.13 (95% CI, 1.02-1.25), respectively.


  • Heterogeneity among included studies.

  • Some studies included self-reported anthropometric measurements.


Ohno T, Aune D, Heath AK. Adiposity and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):16006. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-71676-6. PMID: 32994434.  View abstract

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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