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For overweight and obese people, weight loss may slow knee cartilage degeneration associated with osteoarthritis

Losing more than five per cent of body weight may slow down the degeneration of knee cartilage in people who are overweight or obese. Cartilage degeneration is a key indicator of osteoarthritis.

Researchers led by Dr. Alexandra Gersing at the University of California San Francisco studied 640 people who had either mild to moderate osteoarthritis or had risk factors for osteoarthritis. The study group included 398 women, and all the participants were either overweight or obese.

The participants were divided into three groups: those who lost five to 10 per cent of their body weight over the study period, those who lost more than 10 per cent of their body weight, and those whose weight remained the same.

The researchers used MRI imaging to look at changes in their knee cartilage over a period of four years.

The results showed that over four years, the rate of cartilage degeneration was slower in the groups that lost weight compared to those who did not. The rate of degeneration was progressively slower with the different weight loss groups: degeneration was slower in the five-per-cent weight loss group compared to the stable weight group, and slower still in the 10 per cent weight loss group.

The researchers note that being overweight or obese significantly increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis. Their study results suggest that for overweight or obese people, weight loss may help protect against the knee cartilage degeneration associated with osteoarthritis.

The study was published online in the journal Radiology on May 2, 2017.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital