SYDNEY– Preventing weight gain from young adulthood to late midlife to reduce overweight or obesity could significantly reduce the cost burden of total knee replacements, an Aussie research found.

The study, which was led by Monash University, used data from 24,368 participants in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study.

It examined the association between patterns of weight gain from early adulthood to late midlife and the risk of total knee replacement for osteoarthritis.

Dividing the BMI (body mass index) data into six distinct trajectories, researchers found the risk of requiring a total knee replacement increased in all groups where someone progressed into a higher weight group. 

In total, 28.4 percent of knee replacements could be prevented if people moved to one group lower, with an average of 8-12 kg weight loss from early adulthood to late midlife, according to the research.

Flavia Cicuttini from Monash University, senior author of the paper published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, told Xinhua on Tuesday that while weight loss was recommended for people with osteoarthritis who were overweight or obese, this was often too little and too late. 

“The big problem is that if a person has gained weight, become obese and developed knee arthritis, it is important to try and lose weight, but ‘fixing’ or reducing the obesity will not repair any damage that has already happened to the knee,” Cicuttini said. 

“If you have a choice, it is better to stop the gain of 5 kg in the first place rather than trying to take off that 5 kg.” 

Cicuttini said, in a number of countries including Australia where populations are slowly gaining weight, they see some people become very heavy.

They then introduce treatments or surgery to tackle the problems, resulting in millions of Australian dollars to the health system per year. 

She added that prevention has multiple health and cost benefits compared to the idea that to solve the obesity after it has occurred. 

“For example, eating the average equivalent of two fewer pieces of chocolate per week, or adding 10 minutes of exercise, can prevent the insidious half to 0.5-1 kg weight gain we see per person per year in Australia.” – Xinhua