Evaluation Study
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Weight loss in obese people has structure-modifying effects on medial but not on lateral knee articular cartilage.

BACKGROUND: Obesity is an important risk factor for knee osteoarthritis (OA), Weight loss can reduce the symptoms of knee OA. No prospective studies assessing the impact of weight loss on knee cartilage structure and composition have been performed.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the impact of weight loss on knee cartilage thickness and composition.

METHODS: 111 obese adults were recruited from either laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding or exercise and diet weight loss programmes from two tertiary centres. MRI was performed at baseline and 12-month follow-up to assess cartilage thickness. 78 eligible subjects also underwent delayed gadolinium-enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC), an estimate of proteoglycan content. The associations between cartilage outcomes (cartilage thickness and dGEMRIC index) and weight loss were adjusted for age, gender, body mass index (BMI) and presence of clinical knee OA.

RESULTS: Mean age was 51.7 ± 11.8 years and mean BMI was 36.6 ± 5.8 kg/m(2); 32% had clinical knee OA. Mean weight loss was 9.3 ± 11.9%. Percentage weight loss was negatively associated with cartilage thickness loss in the medial femoral compartment in multiple regression analysis (β=0.006, r(2)=0.19, p=0.029). This association was not detected in the lateral compartment (r(2)=0.12, p=0.745). Percentage weight loss was associated with an increase in medial dGEMRIC in multiple regression analysis (β=3.9, r(2)=0.26; p=0.008) but not the lateral compartment (r(2)=0.14, p=0.34). For every 10% weight loss there was a gain in the medial dGEMRIC index of 39 ms (r(2)=0.28; p=0.014). The lowest weight loss cut-off associated with reduced medial femoral cartilage thickness loss and improved medial dGEMRIC index was 7%.

CONCLUSIONS: Weight loss is associated with improvements in the quality (increased proteoglycan content) and quantity (reduced cartilage thickness losses) of medial articular cartilage. This was not observed in the lateral compartment. This could ultimately lead to a reduced need for total joint replacements and is thus a finding with important public health implications.

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