Weight loss prevents knee osteoarthritis; fights against knee cartilage degeneration: UCSF study

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Dec 01, 2015 05:30 AM EST

Shedding extra weight can help protect the knee's cartilage from degeneration and subsequently, from osteoarthritis, a University of California San Francisco study shows.

The research presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America found that those who lost more than 10 percent of their body weight were protected against knee cartilage degeneration than those who lost less weight or those who lost no weight at all, HealthDay reports.

"Degenerative joint disease is a major cause of pain and disability in our population, and obesity is a significant risk factor," lead author Dr. Alexandra Gersing from the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement. "Once cartilage is lost in osteoarthritis, the disease cannot be reversed."

Dr. Gersing and her colleagues looked at over 500 overweight and obese patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis in the knees in order to look at the connection between weight loss and the degeneration of knee cartilage. They used an MRI to look at the degree of osteoarthritis for the study. The participants were divided into three groups, a group who lost more than 10 percent of their body weight, those who lost less than 10 percent and those who did not lose weight at all.

"Cartilage degenerated a lot slower in the group that lost more than 10 percent of their body weight, especially in the weight-bearing regions of the knee," Dr. gersin said. "However, those with 5 to 10 percent weight loss had almost no difference in cartilage degeneration compared to those who didn't lose weight."

In studying the quality of knee cartilage in participants, they found that losing weight is effective against degeneration. The bigger the weight lost, the more beneficial, it also reduces the chances of developing osteoarthritis, Medical Daily reports.

Along with healthier diet for weight loss, Dr. Gersing also recommends moderate exercise to combat the disease. She recommends that lifestyle interventions be put in place to avoid knee cartilage degeneration.

"It's most helpful if these lifestyle interventions take place as early as possible," she said, as reported by University Herald.

The researchers will be doing a follow up on the patients in eight years and look at the effects of weight gain on the knees. They will also be studying diabetes, obesity and its role in the weakening of the knee cartilage.

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