Previous studies have reported inconsistent results regarding the link between being overweight and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Now a new study presented at the European Congress of Rheumatology in Madrid has shown that, in women (but not men), being overweight or obese was associated with a higher risk of RA.

Danish researchers recruited 54,284 subjects (52 per cent female), aged between 50 and 64 years. Of these, 1.0 per cent of women and 0.4 per cent of men developed RA over a median follow-up of 21 years. After adjusting for confounders, overweight and obese women were 48 and 54 per cent more likely to develop RA than controls.

Women with abdominal obesity (>88cm) were 24 per cent more likely to develop RA than those with a healthy BMI. Each 1 per cent increase in body fat increased RA risk by 3 per cent. None of these differences reached statistical significance in men, but men with abdominal obesity (>102cm) were 16 per cent more likely to develop RA, although this was not significant.

“One possible explanation for these inconsistencies [in the previous investigations] is that, while BMI has been the preferred surrogate measure for being overweight in these studies, BMI only correlates modestly with total amount of body fat and does not accurately reflect fat distribution,” said lead author Asta Linauskas from University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.

“Our results support an association between the risk of developing RA and three different criteria for being overweight or obese in women. We believe RA should be included in the list of all the other medical conditions linked to obesity. It would certainly make sense for women with a family history of RA to try to avoid becoming overweight.”

10.1136/annrheumdis-2017-eular.1526

Recommended

Aspirin may protect against breast cancer in diabetes

Long-term low-dose aspirin reduces the risk of breast cancer in women with diabetes

Pain linked to dementia

Persistent pain is associated with more rapid memory decline and increased risk of dementia, according to a new analysis

Popular

Health checks and diabetes prevention New Style

This module provides an update on both the NHS Health Check and NHS diabetes prevention programmes

CPD: Anxiety disorders in adults New Style

This module will help you understand the main types of anxiety disorder and their therapeutic management

Dovonex is switched from POM to P

Dovonex Psoriasis Ointment (calcipotriol 50mcg/g) has been reclassified as a P medicine, the MHRA has announced