Rheumatoid cachexia, central obesity and malnutrition in patients with low-active rheumatoid arthritis: feasibility of anthropometry, Mini Nutritional Assessment and body composition techniques

Eur J Nutr. 2009 Aug;48(5):315-22. doi: 10.1007/s00394-009-0017-y. Epub 2009 Mar 31.


Background and aims: The concurrent decrease in fat free mass (FFM) and increase in fat mass (FM), including central obesity, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be related to increased cardiovascular morbidity as well as to functional decline. The objectives of this study were to evaluate body composition and nutritional status in patients with RA and the feasibility of bioelectrical impedance (BIA) to detect rheumatoid cachexia.

Methods: Eighty RA outpatients (76% women), mean age 61 (range 22-80) years and with mean disease duration of 6 (range 1-52) years, were assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), BIA and the Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA).

Results: Fat free mass index (FFMI; kg/m(2)) was low in 26% of the women and in 21% of the men. About every fifth patient displayed concomitant low FFMI and elevated fat mass index (FMI; kg/m(2)), i.e. rheumatoid cachexia. BMI and MNA were not able to detect this condition. Sixty-seven percent had increased WC. Reduced FFM was independently related to age (p = 0.022), disease duration (p = 0.027), ESR (p = 0.011) and function trendwise (p = 0.058). There was a good relative agreement between DXA and BIA (FM r (2) = 0.94, FFM r (2) = 0.92; both p < 0.001), but the limits of agreement were wide for each variable, i.e. for FM -3.3 to 7.8 kg; and for FFM -7.9 to 3.7 kg.

Conclusion: Rheumatoid cachexia and central obesity were common in patients with RA. Neither BMI nor MNA could detect this properly. There was a good relative agreement between DXA and BIA, but the limits of agreement were wide, which may restrict the utility of BIA in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anthropometry
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cachexia / etiology*
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Malnutrition / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult