Being overweight can be bad for knee cartilage


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We know being overweight can be bad for your heart, but now there’s evidence it can be bad for the cartilage in your knees.

A new study looking at risk factors for fast knee cartilage loss found that having a high body mass index can be a liability. Researchers looked at data from the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study of 3,026 people 50 to 79 who were at risk for osteoarthritis or had early evidence of the disease. They studied 347 knees in 336 patients with an average BMI of 29.5, considered overweight and just at the cusp of obesity. At the beginning of the study, most knees did not show evidence of tibiofemoral osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis of the knee joint where the tibia and femur meet.


After following the subjects for 30 months, 20% showed slow cartilage loss, and almost 6% showed rapid cartilage loss. Those more prone to rapid cartilage loss also had tears or other injuries to the meniscus or other joint-related problems. However, the only demographic feature that predicted rapid cartilage loss was having a high BMI at the start of the study.

‘As obesity is one of the few established risk factors for osteoarthritis, it is not surprising that obesity may also precede and predict rapid cartilage loss,’ said the study’s lead author Dr. Frank Roemer, adjunct associate professor at Boston University, in a news release. ‘Weight loss is probably the most important factor to slow disease progression.’

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Radiology.

-- Jeannine Stein