HealthDay News — Weight loss of 5% or more can significantly lower cartilage degeneration in overweight/obese patients, according to a study published online in Radiology.

Alexandra Gersing, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco’s department of radiology and biomedical imaging, and colleagues collected data on 640 obese and overweight people who had mild osteoarthritis or were at risk of it. The patients, average age 69, were part of the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a nationwide US study on the prevention and treatment of knee arthritis. The participants were placed into 3 groups: those who lost more than 10% of their body weight, those who lost 5% to 10% of their body weight, and those whose weight remained stable.

Over 48 months, the researchers found that patients with 5% weight loss had lower rates of cartilage degeneration than patients whose weight remained stable. Among patients who lost 10% of their body weight, cartilage degeneration slowed even more. Weight loss also slowed degeneration of the menisci.

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“The most exciting finding of our research was that not only did we see slower degeneration in the articular cartilage, we saw that the menisci degenerated a lot slower in overweight and obese individuals who lost more than 5% of their body weight, and that the effects were strongest in overweight individuals and in individuals with substantial weight loss,” Gersing said in a journal news release. “Our study emphasizes the importance of individualized therapy strategies and lifestyle interventions in order to prevent structural knee joint degeneration as early as possible in obese and overweight patients at risk for osteoarthritis or with symptomatic osteoarthritis.”

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Gersing AS, Schwaiger BJ, Nevitt MC, et al. Is weight loss associated with less progression of changes in knee articular cartilage among obese and overweight patients as assessed with MR imaging over 48 months? Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative [published online May 2, 2017]. Radiology. doi:10.1148/radiol/2017161005