| research/study

Benefits of Weight Loss Go Beyond Bones and Joints

Study Finds Widespread Improvement in Pain from Reduced Obesity

Research results from Michigan Medicine’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center has shed new light on the connection between body weight and pain. Investigator Andrew Schrepf, PhD, noted that although a positive association between overweight and chronic pain has been well known, “…the assumption has always been the pain is going to be in the knees, hips and lower back — parts of the body that are weight-bearing.” But findings from the work conducted by Dr. Schrepf and colleagues suggest that even a 10% reduction in weight in obese patients resulted in less pain in these areas, but also in the arm, chest, jaw, and abdomen, as well as improved cognition, more energy, and improved mental health. Schrepf continued “What we think that means is this process of losing weight may be affecting the central mechanisms of pain control related to the brain and spinal cord.” The findings are published in Journal of Pain.

In the study, 123 participants were evaluated over a 12-week period in which they were placed on a low-calorie diet, and instructed in increased physical activity. Of the regimen, Amy Rothberg, MD, PhD, associate professor of endocrinology nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan, noted, “…people are, paradoxically, far more energetic on a low-energy diet and find after they begin losing weight that they can do more and are more physically active.” The research team surveyed participants’ condition through the 12-week study period using fibromyalgia assessment criteria. 99 subjects succeeded in losing 10% or more of their body weight, and this cohort reported significant improvement in pain compared to subjects who did not lose weight. Blood samples taken from 25% of participants also showed increased concentrations of anti-inflammatory molecules following the weight loss. 

Read a news story about the research findings. 

The journal abstract may be read here.

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