Fundamentals of OA. An initiative of Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. Obesity and metabolic factors in OA

A. Batushansky, S. Zhu, R. K. Komaravolu, S. South, P. Mehta-D'souza, T. M. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: Obesity was once considered a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis (OA) primarily for biomechanical reasons. Here we provide an additional perspective by discussing how obesity also increases OA risk by altering metabolism and inflammation. Design: This narrative review is presented in four sections: 1) metabolic syndrome and OA, 2) metabolic biomarkers of OA, 3) evidence for dysregulated chondrocyte metabolism in OA, and 4) metabolic inflammation: joint tissue mediators and mechanisms. Results: Metabolic syndrome and its components are strongly associated with OA. However, evidence for a causal relationship is context dependent, varying by joint, gender, diagnostic criteria, and demographics, with additional environmental and genetic interactions yet to be fully defined. Importantly, some aspects of the etiology of obesity-induced OA appear to be distinct between men and women, especially regarding the role of adipose tissue. Metabolomic analyses of serum and synovial fluid have identified potential diagnostic biomarkers of knee OA and prognostic biomarkers of disease progression. Connecting these biomarkers to cellular pathophysiology will require future in vivo studies of joint tissue metabolism. Such studies will help reveal when a metabolic process or a metabolite itself is a causal factor in disease progression. Current evidence points towards impaired chondrocyte metabolic homeostasis and metabolic-immune dysregulation as likely factors connecting obesity to the increased risk of OA. Conclusions: A deeper understanding of how obesity alters metabolic and inflammatory pathways in synovial joint tissues is expected to provide new therapeutic targets and an improved definition of “metabolic” and “obesity” OA phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-515
Number of pages15
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Metabolomics
  • Metaflammation
  • Osteoarthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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