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11 May 2010
Obesity implicated in fibromyalgia risk

Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have found an association between body mass index (BMI), level of leisure time physical exercise and the future risk of developing fibromyalgia. The new research appears in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

The prevalence of fibromyalgia increases with age and is considerably higher among women than men. Although the etiology of fibromyalgia is poorly understood, many authors have suggested that a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system involving deficiencies in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system contributes to the development of fibromyalgia by altering pain perception and endogenous pain inhibition.

Previous studies have shown that physical exercise is associated with less musculoskeletal pain and stiff or painful joints among aging women. The Norwegian researchers, led by Doctor Paul Mork, proposed that there is an association between levels of leisure time physical exercise and future risk of fibromyalgia and also that being overweight/obese may represent an independent risk factor for future development of fibromyalgia.

"Women who reported exercising 4 times per week had a 29 percent lower risk of FM compared with inactive women," says Dr. Mork. "Similar results were found in the analysis of the summary score combining information on frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise; women with the highest exercise level had a somewhat lower risk than inactive women."

The study further shows that a high BMI is a strong and independent risk factor for future development of fibromyalgia. Moreover, the higher relative risks for the combined effect of being overweight/obese and inactive, relative to being overweight/obese alone, point to a further disadvantage for overweight women who do not exercise.

"These findings, together with the current study, indicate that regular physical exercise, and thereby improved physical fitness, may serve as a buffer against the perpetuation of musculoskeletal symptoms that eventually lead to the development of FM," concluded Dr. Mork.

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Source: Arthritis Care & Research

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