Body composition in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a narrative literature review - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Therapeutic advances in musculoskeletal disease Year : 2021

Body composition in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a narrative literature review


There is growing interest in the alterations in body composition (BC) that accompany rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The purpose of this review is to (i) investigate how BC is currently measured in RA patients, (ii) describe alterations in body composition in RA patients and (iii) evaluate the effect on nutrition, physical training, and treatments; that is, corticosteroids and biologic Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Disease (bDMARDs), on BC in RA patients. The primary-source literature for this review was acquired using PubMed, Scopus and Cochrane database searches for articles published up to March 2021. The Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms used were ‘Arthritis, Rheumatoid’, ‘body composition’, ‘sarcopenia’, ‘obesity’, ‘cachexia’, ‘Absorptiometry, Photon’ and ‘Electric Impedance’. The titles and abstracts of all articles were reviewed for relevant subjects. Whole-BC measurements were usually performed using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to quantify lean- and fat-mass parameters. In RA patients, lean mass is lower and adiposity is higher than in healthy controls, both in men and women. The prevalence of abnormal BC conditions such as overfat, sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity is significantly higher in RA patients than in healthy controls; these alterations in BC are observed even at an early stage of the disease. Data on the effect treatments on BC in RA patients are scarce. In the few studies published, (a) creatine supplementation and progressive resistance training induce a slight and temporary increase in lean mass, (b) exposure to corticosteroids induces a gain in fat mass and (c) tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) inhibitors might be associated with a gain in fat mass, while tocilizumab might be associated with a gain in lean mass. The available data clearly demonstrate that alterations in BC occur in RA patients, but data on the effect of treatments, especially bDMARDs, are inconsistent and further studies are needed in this area.

Dates and versions

hal-03334020 , version 1 (03-09-2021)


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Jean-Guillaume Letarouilly, René-Marc Flipo, Bernard Cortet, Anne Tournadre, Julien Paccou. Body composition in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a narrative literature review. Therapeutic advances in musculoskeletal disease, 2021, 13, pp.1759720X2110150. ⟨10.1177/1759720X211015006⟩. ⟨hal-03334020⟩
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