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Reduce knee pain with weight loss



If you're struggling with knee pain, take heart. Heavy adults with knee osteoarthritis who lose 10% of their weight can significantly reduce their knee pain, walk faster and improve their mobility, a new study shows.

About 250 million people worldwide have knee osteoarthritis, the leading cause of disability in older adults, says lead author Stephen Messier, a professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against one another, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement. Obesity is a major risk factor for knee osteoarthritis, Messier says.

Messier and colleagues recruited 454 overweight and obese adults with osteoarthritis in their knees. For the 18-month study, patients were assigned to either a diet-and-exercise plan, a diet-only plan or an exercise-only program. The exercise group did mild- to moderate-intensity workouts one hour a day three days a week for 18 months; the diet/exercise group followed a calorie-restricted diet and an exercise program. The diet group followed the diet plan. The findings in today's Journal of the American Medical Association:

--Participants in the diet-and-exercise program lost an average of 23 pounds; those who just dieted lost 19.6 pounds; and those who just exercised lost about 4 pounds.

--People in the diet-and-exercise group had less knee pain, walked faster and felt better walking up stairs and getting out of chairs than those in the exercise group.

--Everyone increased walking speed, but the diet-and-exercise group increased the most.

Those kinds of improvements could lead to decreased health care costs and fewer joint replacements in the future, says rheumatologist Patience White, a spokeswoman for the Arthritis Foundation.

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