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Am J Epidemiol. 1990 Oct;132(4):701-7.

Body fat distribution and osteoarthritis.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0560.


The association of body fat distribution with single and combined site osteoarthritis was investigated using data from the US Health Examination Survey I, 1960-1962 (HES I) and the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I, 1971-1975 (NHANES I). The study included 1,636 adults aged 35-79 years from HES I with hands and feet radiographs and four anthropometric fat distribution measures--subscapular and triceps skinfolds, waist girth, and seat breadth--and 3,885 adults aged 45-74 from NHANES I with knee radiographs and subscapular and triceps skinfold measures. Sex-specific data, adjusted for age, race, and body mass index, were analyzed using polychotomous logistic regression. There was a positive association of body mass index with knee osteoarthritis and with combined hands and feet osteoarthritis. A peripheral body girth pattern was associated with combined site osteoarthritis of the hands and feet; however, there was no consistent pattern of association of body fat distribution with knee osteoarthritis nor with osteoarthritis of the hands or feet only. These findings suggest that the central body fat pattern observed in previous studies to be associated with cardiovascular and gallbladder disease, and with diabetes, is not associated with osteoarthritis of the hands, feet, or knees.

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