Osteoarthritis risk from obesity is passed on to the next generation

Osteoarthritis risk from obesity is passed on to the next generation

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Osteoarthritis risk is passed on to children and grandchildren

In principle, every person can develop osteoarthritis. The most important risk factor for painful joint disease is age. However, excessive weight also favors the development of the disease. Researchers have now found that the risk of osteoarthritis is passed on to children and grandchildren through obesity.

As reported by the German Society for Rheumatology (DGRh) in a recent release, obesity is one of the most important risk factors for osteoarthritis. New studies on laboratory mice have now shown that the risk is also increased in the next generation, even if the offspring do not have an increased body weight.

The most common of all joint diseases

According to the German Arthrosis Aid, arthrosis is the most common of all joint diseases. "In Germany, around five million women and men suffer from complaints caused by osteoarthritis, with an increasing tendency," the experts write on their website.

According to the DGRh, an excessively high body weight is an essential risk factor for arthrosis. Very overweight or obese people suffer not only in the hips and knees. Even non-load-bearing joints are affected more often.

"We therefore suspect that there are systemic causes for the susceptibility of obese people," explains DGRh President Prof. Dr. Hendrik Schulze-Koops from the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) Munich.

"In fact, there are often elevated levels of cytokines in the blood of obese people that are involved in the inflammatory process in the joints." People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, obese or obese when the BMI is 30 and above.

Obesity can be passed on to the next generation

In the study recently published in the journal "Arthritis & Rheumatology", the laboratory mice that a team led by Farshid Guilak from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis had been fattening for months also showed increased levels of cytokines in the blood.

And after an injury to the meniscus, the animals developed osteoarthritis as in a control group of normal-weight mice.

Previous research had shown that obesity can be passed on to the next generation even if they are fed normally. This was also the case with the laboratory mice.

The offspring gained 19 percent more weight on a low-fat diet in the first generation than the offspring of mice who were never overweight. In the second generation, the weight was still nine percent higher.

"This susceptibility is probably due to epigenetic changes," says Prof. Schulze-Koops: "The genes of the mice are identical, but which genes are activated can be passed on to the next generation through environmental factors such as nutrition."

A healthy weight for the joints is so important

According to the information, the effects were not limited to the body weight of the mice. The predisposition to osteoarthritis was also passed on to the offspring.

After a meniscus injury, osteoarthritis was 48 percent more common in the first generation. In the second generation, the female animals were 19 percent more susceptible.

"This can only be explained by passing on increased inflammation to the next generation," said Prof. Schulze-Koops. The scientific study provides information on this.

Inflammatory cells, which become active in the event of an injury, were increasingly detected in the offspring's joint skin. The bone volume near the joints was also reduced in the female mice.

Epigenetic programming is presumably done during pregnancy. "Overweight and obesity have increased worldwide, including Germany, in recent decades, which is worrying," said Prof. Schulze-Koops.

“The study shows again how important normal weight is for the joints. This even affects the children and the children's children. ”(Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • German Society for Rheumatology (DGRh): Epigenetics: risk of osteoarthritis from obesity is passed on to children and grandchildren, (accessed: March 10, 2020), German Society for Rheumatology (DGRh)
  • Natalia S. Harasymowicz, Yun ‐ Rak Choi, Chia ‐ Lung Wu, Leanne Iannucci, Ruhang Tang, Farshid Guilak: Intergenerational Transmission of Diet ‐ Induced Obesity, Metabolic Imbalance, and Osteoarthritis in Mice; in: Arthritis & Rheumatology, (published: 24.10.2019), Arthritis & Rheumatology
  • German Osteoarthritis Aid: How common is osteoarthritis? (Accessed: March 10, 2020), German Osteoarthritis Aid

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