Body Fat and Waist Size Linked to Greater RA Risk in Women

There is an association between being overweight, abdominal obesity, and a high body fat percentage with a greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for women but not men, according to a study.

There is an association between being overweight, abdominal obesity and a high body fat percentage with a greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for women but not men, according to a study.

Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 25-29.99 kg/m2 are considered overweight, while those with a BMI greater than 30kg/m2 are considered obese. Abdominal obesity in women is defined by a waist circumference that is greater than 88 centimeters.

“One possible explanation for these inconsistencies is that while BMI has been the preferred surrogate measure for being overweight in these studies, BMI only correlates modestly with total amount of body fat and does not accurately reflect fat distribution,” said lead author Dr Asta Linauskas from University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark, according to a press release from the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology, where the findings were presented.

Of the 54,284 study participants, 52% were female between the ages of 50 and 64. Over the 21-year follow-up period, 283 women and 110 men had developed RA. The study notes that there is not an association between overweight men and RA development due to the different criteria that determine the weight categories.

When a statistical analysis was performed to investigate the link between body fat percentage and RA risk in women, the “restricted cubic spline” analysis demonstrated a positive slope, representing a direct relationship; however, no association could be confirmed for men.

“Our results support an association between the risk of developing RA and three different criteria for being overweight or obese in women. We believe RA should be included in the list of all the other medical conditions linked to obesity. It would certainly make sense for women with a family history of RA to try to avoid becoming overweight,” concluded Linauskas.