New science has shown to be true what was previously speculated – losing weight greatly improves the health of your knees over the long term. Obesity is a major risk factor in developing osteoarthritis later in life, and it places undue pressure on weight-bearing joints like the knees. Obese people also have elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood.
“For this research, we analyzed the differences between groups with and without weight loss,” said Alexandra Gersing, the study’s lead author. “We looked at the degeneration of all knee joint structures, such as menisci, articular cartilage and bone marrow.”
The study tracked weight loss and progressive cartilage changes, as monitored by MRI, over the course of forty eight months. 640 volunteers participated, all of them either overweight or obese, with a minimum BMI of 25 kg/m2. They also all had risk factors for osteoarthritis, or already had it in mild to moderate progression.
The data was divided into three categories: patients who lost more than 10% of their body weight, those who lost between 5 and 10%, and those who didn’t lose weight.
While the control group of patients who did not lose weight continued to lose cartilage at the predicted rate, the other two groups showed slowed deterioration. The 10% group showed the best improvement.
Articular cartilage degeneration slowed significantly, as did meniscus deterioration.
“The most exciting finding of our research was that not only did we see slower degeneration in the articular cartilage, we saw that the menisci degenerated a lot slower in overweight and obese individuals who lost more than 5 percent of their body weight, and that the effects were strongest in overweight individuals and in individuals with substantial weight loss,” explained Dr. Gersing.
Along with weight loss, cartilage deterioration appears to be further slowed by regular light to moderate exercise.
Gersing suggests that improving lifestyle variables gives you a better chance of staving off osteoarthritis. “Our study emphasizes the importance of individualized therapy strategies and lifestyle interventions in order to prevent structural knee joint degeneration as early as possible in obese and overweight patients at risk for osteoarthritis or with symptomatic osteoarthritis.”
The health benefits of weight loss and exercise are well-documented and generally understood. Along with the aesthetic benefits of losing weight, it will also greatly improve your quality of life, both now and in the future. Weight loss has also been linked with extended lifespan. Nobody likes dieting or working out, but it might be better than the alternative.