Childhood obesity increases the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip in adulthood, according to a study published at the annual European Rheumatology Congress (EULAR 2018).
Obesity and osteoarthritis are two interrelated health care issues that affect much of the world’s adult population, but the study of causality in this association is difficult because of confounding factors. To test the hypothesis that the association between obesity and osteoarthritis is causal, the researchers used a method known as “Mendelian Randomization”, which uses genetic variants to determine if a biomarker has an effect on the risk of developing an illness.
“Obesity in childhood and adulthood is an important public health problem,” said Professor Johannes W. Bijlsma, President of EULAR. “These data showing a causal relationship with osteoarthritis should add new impetus to tackle the problem of obesity and reduce related disabilities.”
The results of the study revealed that the body mass index (BMI) of adults significantly increases the prevalence of osteoarthritis, knee osteoarthritis or hip arthritis by 2.7%, 1.3% and 0.4% per unit (1 kg / m2). But also BMI in children significantly favored the prevalence of osteoarthritis, osteoarthritis of the knee or self-reported hip of 1.7%, 0.6% and 0.6% per unit IMC, respectively. No association was found between BMI of the adult or child and osteoarthritis of the hand.
“Our results suggest that the effect of adult BMI appears to be stronger in the knees, while infant BMI may have a similar impact on the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip,” said Professor Prieto-Alhambra. “Interestingly, our findings contradict earlier studies that found an association between obesity and osteoarthritis of the hand.”