Central Obesity Linked to Earlier Onset of Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
April 30, 2021

By Nancy Melville

VIRTUAL -- April 30, 2021 -- People with central obesity experience osteoarthritic pain years earlier than those without central obesity, and experience pain in more areas, according to a study presented at the 2021 Virtual Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) World Congress.

“Central obesity not only has an influence on the number of joints with pain, but it might help determine the age of onset of osteoarthritic symptoms,” said Martha Castano Betancourt, PhD, Faculdade de Medicina De Jundiaí, Jundiaí, Brazil.

For the study, the researchers evaluated medical records and interviewed 770 patients with osteoarthritis, advanced hip and/or knee joint wear, and persistent joint pain. Among the patients, 46% were obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of ≥30, and 65% had central obesity, defined as a waist-to-hip ratio ≥0.90 in men or 0.85 in women. Hip osteoarthritis was present in 25% of patients, 49% had knee osteoarthritis, and 26% had osteoarthritis in both joints.

Whereas BMI was only slightly associated with an earlier onset of osteoarthritic pain (P = .07), central obesity had a significant association with earlier onset (P = .002), after adjustment for factors including age, gender and BMI.

Patients with central obesity reported an onset of osteoarthritic symptoms as much as 2.5 years earlier than those without central obesity (P = .006), and they had a significantly higher odds of an onset of osteoarthritis prior to the age of 50 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.72; P = .025).

Those with central obesity also had 10.4% more joints affected by pain compared with those without central obesity (P = .04), with significantly higher odds of foot or ankle pain (OR = 2.11) and low back pain (OR = 1.51).

“According to our results, central obesity might exert an important role in the development of osteoarthritis pain and might influence pain at other joints in subjects already affected with osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Betancourt. “Metabolic-inflammatory factors associated with an excess of adipose tissue should be recognised as a more important factor for pain and pain initiation than just BMI.”

[Presentation title: Associations of Central Obesity With Earlier Onset of Osteoarthritis Symptoms. Abstract 16]