Obesity Epidemic Fueling Rise in Rheumatoid Arthritis Among Women

Obesity and the painful autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis are each becoming more common, raising a logical question: Could one have something to do with the other?

By studying medical records from 1980 to 2007, researchers found that rheumatoid arthritis cases rose by 9.2 percent per 100,000 women. Obesity accounted for 52 percent of the increase.

Study co-author Eric Matteson, MD, chair of the Division of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says, “We know that fat tissues and cells produce substances that are active in inflammation and immunity. We know, too, that obesity is related to many other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and now perhaps to autoimmunity. It adds another reason to reduce and prevent obesity in the general population.”