Results from a recent study published in the journal Rheumatology showed that a high body mass index (BMI) was associated with a reduced risk of future rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in men, but not in women. The team of researchers from the Department of Rheumatology, Skane University Hospital, in Sweden indicate that factors related to adipose tissue may contribute to the underlying mechanisms protecting high BMI men from RA.
Risk factors for RA include genetic and environmental factors. Smoking is an established predictor of RA, and BMI may influence disease development as well as its subsequent course. There are conflicting reports on the impact a high BMI may have in the development of RA, with some studies reporting an increased risk in obese individuals while others find no such association.
To examine the effect of overweight and obesity on the risk of RA, the research team led by Carl Turesson assessed the clinical information of 383 RA patients. All data was retrieved from two population based health surveys with a total of 50,705 participants. The median time from inclusion to RA diagnosis was of 5 years and 12 years.
The results revealed that in men, being overweight or obese at inclusion in the health survey was associated with a reduced risk of subsequent development of RA in both cohorts. There was no such association in women. Estimates were similar in analyses adjusted for potential confounders, including smoking.
The researchers mentioned these findings implicate metabolic pathways related to adipose tissue and hormone-related factors in the development of RA, and suggest that investigation of adipokines and other biomarkers in male and female pre-RA subjects and their association with hormone-related exposures may shed further light on disease pathogenesis.
Carl Turesson stated in a recent news release,”to our knowledge, this is the first nested case-control study to investigate this issue in men.” He went on to comment on the effect for overweight and obese participants: “the effect of obesity on the risk of RA did not appear to be substantially different from that of overweight. However, a differential effect of very high BMI cannot be ruled out.”