What Your Weight Has To Do With Arthritis

Posted on: 30 January 2015

How much you weigh may increase your risk for arthritis. Although there are different types of arthritis -- a condition that causes joint inflammation -- an unhealthy weight may be a risk factor for the disease. While the underlying disease pathologies vary, inflammation plays a key role in arthritis. Besides the added stress excess weight puts on your joints, research suggests that too much body fat may contribute to inflammation even though the reasons aren't yet clear.


Being overweight increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knees. Excess weight can also make existing arthritis worse.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, breaks down cartilage that covers the ends of bones in joints. Although losing weight can help prevent osteoarthritis of the knee, if you already have the disease, weight loss can alleviate pain.

Too much weight puts stress on a joint and wears it down. Weight-bearing joints like the knees are particularly susceptible. However, osteoarthritis can damage joints in your hips, spine, and hands. As the cartilage wears down over time, bone ends rub together, causing pain and swelling.

Exercise to lose weight can help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Weight loss decreases pressure on the joints. Regular exercise also strengthens the muscles around the joints and moves the synovial fluid that lubricates the cartilage surrounding the joint, helping to relieve pain and stiffness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Chemicals, known as cytokines, produced by the body's fat cells may contribute to the development of arthritis. Although cytokines help regulate the body's immune system, the production of too many cytokines can lead to inflammation and destruction of healthy tissue.

With an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system attacks joint tissue. The more fat cells in your body, the higher the production of chemicals that cause inflammation.

Different from osteoarthritis, which affects the joint, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints. The small joints in your fingers, wrists, and feet swell and become painful. As inflammation destroys the cartilage and bone within a joint, the joint becomes deformed.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you can reduce pain and swelling by including foods high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Fiber may reduce the amount of C-reactive protein in your blood. High levels of the protein indicate the presence of inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, and tofu help reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.


Studies also have linked obesity to gout -- another form of arthritis. Gout causes swelling, redness, pain, and tenderness in joints -- most commonly the large joint in the big toe. Severe pain may come on suddenly.

Uric acid -- a chemical your body produces when it can't break down purines in food -- puts you at higher risk for gout. Not only will your body produce more uric acid when you're overweight, your kidneys will have more trouble excreting it. When you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, uric crystals can form and accumulate in a joint, causing inflammation and pain.

Consuming high amounts of red meats, seafood, high fructose corn syrup, and alcohol increases your risk for gout.