A study presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting in Chicago claims that obese patients who have lost a significant amount of weight have slower knee cartilage degeneration. After studying MRI scans of 506 overweight and obese patients, researchers found out that weight loss protects the knees.

"Degenerative joint disease is a major cause of pain and disability in our population, and obesity is a significant risk factor," said Alexandra Gersing, the study's lead author from the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). "Once cartilage is lost in osteoarthritis, the disease cannot be reversed."

Three groups were created, one group composed of patients who did not have any weight loss, another group consisted of patients who only lost a little weight and the last was composed of patients who lost 10 per cent of their body weight.

Within four years, the patients underwent MRI scans to see how osteoarthritis progressed in their knees. When the team analysed the changes of the quality of their knee cartilage within the period, they discovered that weight loss seemed to protect the knees.

"Cartilage degenerated a lot slower in the group that lost more than 10% of their body weight, especially in the weight-bearing regions of the knee,” Gersing said. “However, those with 5-10% weight loss had almost no difference in cartilage degeneration compared to those who didn't lose weight."

Obesity is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease where there is a gradual loss of the cartilage in the joints. The disease affects more than a third of adults over the age of 60, Medical News Today notes.

Carrying extra weight adds stress on the joints, which increases proteins that cause inflammation. The knee is a common site and many times, osteoarthritis’ progression requires the knees to be completely replaced.

Gersing encourages moderate exercise to preserve the knee joints and reduce the chances of developing osteoarthritis. A healthy lifestyle is key. The researchers also plan to study how diabetes play a role in cartilage degeneration. They will also follow up with this study’s subjects for another four years to further understand the effects of what extra weight may cause.

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