Being overweight.

It’s arguably the number one factor that is cited when we look at what causes all chronic diseases. And for good reason. In this 2014 review, we see a whole host of areas listed about the negative health effects of being overweight. We see a recommendation that maintaining a healthy weight through both diet and exercise should form the cornerstone of any preventative treatment for any chronic condition. And that’s not just Osteoarthritis (OA). That’s every single chronic disease that gets treated by modern medicine. That’s just how important maintaining a healthy weight is (but you probably already knew that).

A List of The Chronic Diseases that are Associated With Being Overweight [Credit: Rethink Obesity]

What about being overweight causes OA?

How does treating someone’s OA impact their weight & vice versa? It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. Which one is more important, the weight loss to improve the OA, or improving to OA to cause weight loss? Our question is, does it really matter? We regularly see people make improvements in their overall body mass while undergoing our program. This is often without any formal dietary intervention. Our theory is, that by addressing their OA and decreasing their pain, they are able to be more active and hence get back to a healthier weight.

Similarly, when patients undergo weight loss we see big improvements in their condition. This is also shown in the research. In this cornerstone trial, the evidence showed that there was a significant dose-response relationship between weight loss and symptom improvement in OA patients. What that meant was that with every % point of body weight lost, symptoms improved in a linear fashion. The more weight that was lost, the better the result. The research showed that those participants who experienced at least 7.7% body weight loss, noticed a clinically important improvement in their symptoms. What’s more, is that around 30% of the patients in this trial experienced more than 10% body weight loss over an 18-week period. These results are outstanding, which is why we have incorporated this exact program into our methodology at MTP. The program is 100% free for patients in participating health funds and is something we would be happy to set up with anyone who inquires.

All that matters is this: Healthy Weight Matters

At the bottom line, however, all that matters in our eyes is that the research shows us that there is a strong correlation between overall bodyweight and arthritic symptoms! It’s much like what we touched on in part 3. Is it the inflammatory chemicals (i.e. negative inflammatory chemicals present in the body with extra body fat), or the biomechanical stress (i.e. the extra force going through the joints)? Once again, we don’t know, but when we lose weight, we know that both decrease.

It’s also interesting to note that with every 1 kg of bodyweight a person carries there is an extra 4 kg of knee joint forces with each step that a person takes. This is hypothesised to increase the loading that a knee joint will experience and may cause the onset of OA. We personally believe that it is potentially a factor.

Is it the inflammation?

In line with what was mentioned above, we also want to mention the general systemic inflammation that exists as a result of excess adipose tissue. As we mentioned in part 3, OA is an inflammatory condition. That means that it’s onset is exacerbated by increased negative inflammation present in the body. This review highlights that excess adipose tissue (i.e. fat) leads to the overexpression of chemicals that cause this inflammation, leading to the body being in a constant inflammatory state. As such, being overweight is one of the predominant contributors to stress as defined in part 3. It leads to increased oxidation (which was associated with ageing in part 1) and impairs endothelial function (i.e. blood flow), thus causing over recovery and regeneration to slow down dramatically. As such, we believe that while the extra 4kgs of force going through the knee on every step may be a factor, we want to re-iterate, that what is more likely a factor is the impaired metabolic state the human body is in when it is overweight.

And as we know, the best ways to reduce or bodyweight is by increasing our activity and improving our diet.

Conclusion

So, the thing that we can take away from all of this, is that when we get our weight down to a healthy range, we are likely to experience an improvement in our condition. However, this is only part of the picture. What we can also say is that we are likely to experience a significant improvement in all areas of our quality of life.

And this is what forms the basis of what we do at MTP Health. We help to enrich people’s lives by empowering human health and performance. By using their condition of Osteoarthritis to incite positive action towards a healthier life, we are able to equip people with the skillsets they need to maintain a positive state of health for life. This allows them to come in with one problem and walk away empowered, knowing that not only will they not have to suffer from their current condition, but also avoid a whole host of other problems that would present if they continued on their same track!

European statistics that showcase the overall medical burden of obesity [Credit: EASO]

References 

  1. Does Being Overweight Really Reduce Mortality
  2. Is There a Dose-Response Relationship Between Weight loss and Symptom Improvement In People With OA
  3. Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis.
  4. Obesity and inflammation: the linking mechanism and the complications.
  5. Exercise, Inflammation and Aging
  6. EASO 
  7. Rethink Obesity