People who are overweight are more likely to need a knee or hip replacement to treat osteoarthritis, it has been claimed.
Researchers at Australia's Monash University carried out a study involving 32,023 volunteers to investigate the link between adipose tissue (fat) and the future risk of knee and hip replacement surgery.
They found that excess body weight, a high body mass index (BMI) and a high percentage of fat increased a person's risk of joint replacement by up to fourfold.
There was also a link between waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio and the risk of joint replacement surgery.
Lead researcher Flavia Cicuttini, whose findings are published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, explained that excess weight puts more pressure on the joints, which may worsen osteoarthritis.
However, the expert believes that metabolic factors are also likely to be important.
"Adipose tissue is now considered an endocrine organ, releasing a multitude of factors, including cytokines which have been implicated in cartilage destruction," she said.
Patients can expect to pay between £7,000 and £9,000 for total hip replacement surgery in a typical UK private hospital.