Healthy Living

Weight Loss Surgery Can Dramatically Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis, Study Finds

Weight Loss Surgery Can Dramatically Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis, Study Finds

Obesity is a severe health problem that has been linked to several chronic illnesses, including coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and more. Since obesity causes a state of inflammation, it is also associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The Arthritis Foundation has stated that around 60% of individuals with RA are either overweight or obese.

A more recent study has found that if you are severely overweight and you have RA, undergoing weight-loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, may help to alleviate your symptoms and possibility lead to remission.

More about this study

The findings are based on a 2015 study published in the official journal ‘Arthritis Care and Research’. The study was conducted by a team of researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The researchers analyzed a group of 53 patients with RA who had undergone bariatric surgery between the years 1993 and 2013.

In general, individuals who undergo bariatric surgery lose anywhere between 19-23% of their entire body weight and in this particular group of patients, the average weight loss was 90 pounds. The researchers found that only 6% of the patients experienced moderate to severe RA disease activity one year following surgery, in comparison to 57% before they underwent surgery. What’s more, 74% of patients went into remission 6 years following surgery, in comparison to 24% who achieved remission with RA medications before undergoing surgery (around 28% of whom did not need medication at all).

“This is a really exciting finding. Across the board, [surgery] vastly improved RA symptoms by every measure, including lower markers of inflammation, like C-reactive protein, disease activity and decreased medication use” said Dr. Jeffrey Sparks, lead author of the study, rheumatologist, and associate physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy.

While Dr. Amanda Sammut, rheumatologist at the New York City Health and Hospitals in Harlem, stated that this particular study presents the latest and strongest evidence available on bariatric surgery and RA, she also noted that a lot of research in this area has not yet been performed. “We have limited information from studies regarding the effects of bariatric surgery in patients with RA. The exact percentage of RA patients who experience improvement in their [disease] after bariatric surgery is not known” she said.

The potential for more research

“This number is difficult to estimate given that good studies are lacking regarding the effect of obesity surgery on RA. Based on the studies we have, however, roughly 90 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis who have moderate to severe disease activity will experience improvement” said Dr. Daniel El-Bogdadi, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington D.C.

Read on to learn more about this discovery, and what this means for the future of rheumatoid arthritis treatment and care.