Obese people with knee osteoarthritis, a painful joint disease, may find greater symptom relief when they lose larger amounts of weight compared to when they shed fewer pounds, a recent study from Wake Forest University in North Carolina suggests.
Compared with people at normal weight, obese individuals are much more likely to develop osteoarthritis and experience pain related to this joint damage.
Researchers examined data on 240 obese adults with pain from knee osteoarthritis who were participating in an 18-month experiment to see how diet alone or diet combined with exercise might impact their health.
Participants who lost 10 percent or more of their weight by the end of the study experienced a 50 percent reduction in pain and also reported significant improvements in mobility and daily function.
But more weight loss was even better. People who lost at least 20 percent of their weight experienced 25 percent less pain and better daily function than patients who lost no more than 10 percent of their weight, the study found.
Previous work from Wake Forest University found that when combined with mild to moderate exercise, a 5 percent weight loss over 18 months reduced pain by 25 percent and improved function and mobility compared to a control group.
The new study showed that twice that weight loss – 10 percent of body weight – had twice the effect.
The current study also looked at results from six-minute walking tests and found more weight loss associated with longer distances in the test. Patients had some improvement in walking distance when they lost just 5 percent of their weight, but results were much more dramatic with a 10 percent or 20 percent weight loss.
The study didn’t show the long-term effects of weight loss on knee joint pain or mobility, or show whether people are able to maintain weight loss over time or if they regain weight. It also wasn’t a randomized controlled experiment designed to prove that weight loss reduced joint pain or improved mobility.
Even so, the result of weight loss is less pressure on the knees, which then often means less pain in the knee joint and an easier time moving around. Weight loss spares the knee joints.
Weight loss may also help curb pain from knee osteoarthritis by decreasing inflammation.
While you can lose weight without physical activity, adding exercise to a weight loss program may help people achieve more lasting results in terms of reducing pain from knee osteoarthritis.
Source: Arthritis Care and Research, online June 18, 2018.
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