From: Reuters
Published May 30, 2008 12:18 PM

Smoking and quitting problematic with arthritis

By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Among people with rheumatoid arthritis, heavy smokers appear to have a greater loss of muscle mass than those who smoke fewer cigarettes or do not smoke, study findings suggest.

On the other hand, people with rheumatoid arthritis are prone to gain weight when they stop smoking, and this may negatively impact their quality of life, report Dr. Antonios Stavropoulos-Kalinoglou and colleagues.

"In any case, though, smoking is a bad habit for rheumatoid arthritis patients," said Stavropoulos-Kalinoglou of the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust, in West Midlands, UK.

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Smokers with rheumatoid arthritis should couple smoking cessation with weight management and lifestyle counseling to counteract or minimize weight gain, he told Reuters Health.

Stavropoulos-Kalinoglou and colleagues compared measures of body mass, body fat, waist circumference, and muscle mass among 392 patients (290 female) who had rheumatoid arthritis for 4 to 18 years. They were 63 years old on average.

Overall, 69 participants were current smokers, 147 were ex-smokers, and 176 had never smoked, the researchers report in the medical journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.

Current smokers had significantly lower body mass and body fat than ex-smokers and never-smokers. The groups had similar overall muscle mass, with the exception of heavy smokers who had the lowest muscle mass values.

The investigators also found that 50 percent of ex-smokers were obese, compared with 39 percent of never-smokers and 30 percent of current smokers.

These findings should be confirmed in a study that follows the impact of smoking, smoking intensity, and smoking cessation on the body composition of people with rheumatoid arthritis over time, the investigators note.

Nonetheless, "it is very important for rheumatoid arthritis patients to stop smoking," Stavropoulos-Kalinoglou stressed. To achieve the most benefit from smoking cessation, he added, "they should also keep an eye on their weight."

SOURCE: Arthritis Research and Therapy, May 2008

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