Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Arthritis Research & Therapy and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Rheumatoid cachexia is associated with dyslipidemia and low levels of atheroprotective natural antibodies against phosphorylcholine but not with dietary fat in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional study

Ann-Charlotte Elkan1*, Niclas Håkansson2, Johan Frostegård3, Tommy Cederholm4 and Ingiäld Hafström1

Author Affiliations

1 Karolinska Institute at the Department of Rheumatology, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden

2 The National Institute of Environmental Medicine, Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, Karolinska Institute, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

3 Karolinska Institute at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden

4 Department of Public Health and Caring Science/Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, Uppsala University, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2009, 11:R37  doi:10.1186/ar2643


See related editorial by Roubenoff, http://arthritis-research.com/content/11/2/108

Published: 10 March 2009

Abstract

Introduction

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) independent of traditional risk factors. The aim of this study was to analyze the associations between diet, body composition, lipids and atheroprotective natural antibodies against phosphorylcholine (anti-PC) in patients with RA.

Methods

A total of 80 RA patients (76% women), mean age (standard deviation (SD)) 61.4 (12) years and median disease duration of 6 years, were assessed by food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), fatty acid profile in adipose tissue and whole-body dual energy x ray absorptiometry (DXA). Rheumatoid cachexia was defined as fat free mass index below the 25th percentile and fat mass index above the 50th percentile of a reference population. Blood lipids, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) and anti-PC levels were determined.

Results

The mean body mass index for the women and men was 25.0 and 27.0, respectively. Central obesity was found in 57% of the women (waist circumference >80 cm) and in 89% of the men (waist circumference >94 cm). In all, 18% of the women and 26% of the men had rheumatoid cachexia. These patients had significantly higher total cholesterol (P < 0.033), LDL (P < 0.029), and trendwise oxLDL (P = 0.056) as well as lower anti-PC IgM (P = 0.040), higher frequency of hypertension (69%) and metabolic syndrome (25%) than those without. The patients reported a high dietary intake of saturated fat, which partly correlated with fatty acid composition in adipose tissue and significantly with disease activity. However, patients with or without cachexia did not differ with respect to dietary fat intake or intake of Mediterranean-like diet. Additionally, patients on a Mediterranean-like diet had high levels of anti-PC (P < 0.001).

Conclusions

About one in five patients with low-active RA displayed rheumatoid cachexia. This condition was associated with high levels of LDL cholesterol, low levels of atheroprotective anti-PC and high frequency of hypertension, which is of interest in the context of CVD in RA. The cachexia could not be related to diet fat intake. However, patients on a Mediterranean-like diet had high anti-PC levels in spite of similar frequency of cachexia. High anti-PC levels may provide some protection against CVD.