Body weight and PsA – Is there really a connection?
Let’s face it – most of us have wanted to lose the odd pound here and there; maybe a few centimetres around the waist to fit into your favorite jeans again? Or perhaps a killer Christmas party outfit? Even if you happen to be one of the lucky ones in tip-top shape, it’s good to know that being a healthy weight doesn’t only benefit your self-confidence and general health and wellbeing but it might also help your psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Let’s have a closer look at what the number on your scales means for your PsA.
How can body weight affect PsA?
A study published in 2012 looked into about 2 million medical records to understand more about the relationship between weight and PsA risk. It found that a higher body mass index (BMI – click here for a BMI calculator) was associated with an increased risk of developing PsA. What’s more, the researchers noted that the higher the BMI, the higher the risk - it was almost doubled for people with a BMI above 35[i].
Scientists already have quite a good idea of the link; it’s known that fat tissue produces a variety of molecules that can lead to inflammation, for example tumor necrosis factor or interleukins – the very same molecules that are overactive in PsA[ii]. These molecules can lead to a pro-inflammatory state in highly overweight people and increase the risk of certain inflammatory diseases. The link seems to be particularly strong with PsA, as data shows that obesity can increase the risk of developing PsA but also clinical outcomes in those who already have the condition[iii].
Benefits of weight loss
Now the good news: Weight loss can positively impact your condition in a number of ways. As fat cells promote inflammation in the body, it seems logical that less fat means less inflammation. And in fact, one study found that people with PsA with a normal BMI (below 25) were more likely to achieve sustained minimal disease activity (MDA) (a combined evaluation of different symptoms of PsA) than people who were overweight.[iv]
Easier said than done
We all know the theory, a healthy diet and regular exercise are good for you, but the reality is that it can be difficult to make major lifestyle adjustments, especially for busy working people with multiple responsibilities. It can be even harder when aching and stiff joints can make life so much more challenging. But improving your lifestyle doesn’t have to involve a strict diet or a boot-camp-like exercise program. In fact, small changes can start to make a difference. For example, you could find a healthy alternative for your favourite treats, like replacing ice cream with frozen yoghurt. On days when you are feeling good, why not avoid the lifts and take the stairs?
If you think that you might need to get in better shape but you are struggling with finding the motivation or you are unsure about what’s good for you, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you to find out how you should start battling those extra pounds (if indeed there are any at all!). You, and your PsA, will undoubtedly reap the benefits.
[i] Obesity and the risk of psoriatic arthritis: a population-based study. Love TJ, Zhu Y, Zhang Y, Wall-Burns L, Ogdie A, Gelfand JM, Choi HK. Ann Rheum Dis. 2012 Aug;71(8):1273-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22586165
[ii] Website “Arthritis Foundation” – How Overweight and Obesity Affect Psoriatic Arthritis. Last accessed: 13.06.16. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/psoriatic-arthritis/articles/obesity-psoriatic-arthritis.php
[iii] Obesity and psoriatic arthritis: from pathogenesis to clinical outcome and management. Russolillo A, Iervolino S, Peluso R, Lupoli R, Di Minno A, Pappone N, Di Minno MN. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013 Jan;52(1):62-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22989426