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Can excess pounds of fat carry hidden dangers to your joints? Discover what surprising research is saying about osteoarthritis and obesity and how it can lead to more than joint pain. More than just overloading joints, obesity can lead to fat cells taking aim at joints. Can Vegan or Vegetarian Diets Help Reduce Arthritis Inflammation? Dairy: Arthritis Friend or Foe? Exercise: How Much Is Enough? Can Pain Clinics Help People With RA?
What Triggers an Arthritis Flare? From osteoarthritis to heart disease to diabetes, obesity is implicated in a host of diseases. Fat does more than hang around inconvenient places and make it tough to pull on your favorite pair of jeans. Excess body fat can destroy joints in ways that have come to surprise researchers.
Farish Guilak PhD, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Duke University Medical Center at Durham, N. He and others began to wonder whether obesity alone told the whole story of joint destruction. Some athletic endeavors put greater biomechanical forces on knees than obesity. Guilak are just beginning to understand.
Fat, or adipose tissue in medical lingo, is home to millions upon millions of busy adipocytes, or fat cells. In reaction to such exposure, adipocytes churn out high levels of their own immune proteins called adipokines. Year after year of obesity fuels a steady barrage of friendly fire that in turn generates low-level chronic inflammation. Robert Mooney, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Rochester in New York. Mooney recently redirected his research efforts from diabetes and obesity in the liver to the effects of obesity and diabetes on musculoskeletal disease.
His experience researching metabolic disturbances in diabetes told him that adipocytes could also be a bad influence on joints. To study the link between a disrupted metabolic system and osteoarthritis, Mooney turned to a trusted mouse model of diabetic mice. Mooney’s team studied whether a high-fat diet in diabetic mice would damage joints. One group of mice ate a high-fat diet and then had surgery that mimics knee injuries in people and is designed to quickly bring on osteoarthritis. The second group of mice ate regular mouse chow until they had the surgery, and then ate the high-fat diet after surgery.
At monthly intervals, the team examined bone and cartilage tissues in the knee joints for markers that would reveal signs of osteoarthritis. Mice in both groups ended up with abnormal changes to their metabolism and early signs of OA. In all mice, such metabolic disturbances occurred long before mice gained a lot of weight. These results argue that all you need is metabolic changes. Next Mooney’s team will try and decipher the molecular pathways that lead from metabolic disturbances to joint damage. The link between obesity and OA is actually very complicated.
Adipocytes secrete many adipokines, one of which includes leptin, which regulates metabolism and body weight. Researchers need to figure out whether leptin and its protein cousins can damage cartilage directly or whether they recruit other cells for their dirty work. Guilak and his team set out to different ways that fat can be dangerous. In one set of experiments the researchers wondered whether exercise could reduce inflammation from a high fat-diet.