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Obesity linked to faster progression of disability in RA

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A new study of adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has found that those who were severely obese experienced more rapidly progressing disability than patients who were overweight.

This was not explained by features of their arthritis, including the amount of inflammation in their joints, the researchers reported in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

The study also found that patients who lost weight tended to become disabled more quickly.

“We believe that this is because when people get older and acquire illnesses, they tend to lose weight. Therefore, the important weight loss in this study is unintentional,” explained Dr Joshua Baker of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “So, this study suggests that patients with rheumatoid arthritis and obesity would benefit from intentional weight loss through a comprehensive management strategy; however, when we see that someone is losing weight without trying, it’s probably a poor prognostic sign, especially if they are already thin.”

The study included data on 23,323 patients with rheumatoid arthritis from the US National Data Bank of the Rheumatic Diseases and 1,697 from the Veterans Affairs RA registry.

The researchers believe that the findings are especially relevant as rates of obesity continue to increase.

“While patients and rheumatologists may be focused mostly on disease activity, we should also consider this common condition, which can contribute to problems that are usually attributed to the arthritis itself,” Dr Baker said. “In addition, unintentional weight loss should alert us that the patient may be becoming frail and is at risk for developing new disability.”