More than 12 million Americans are afflicted with fibromyalgia, a disabling chronic pain ailment, whose symptoms include fatigue, achiness around the joints and even depression. While sufferers may treat symptoms with drugs, there is no fibromyalgia cure. However, new research suggests weight management may play a role in minimizing your risk of developing this disorder.

A study published in the Journal of Pain explored the relationship between fibromyalgia and obesity. A greater proportion of fibromyalgia patients are overweight or obese — 77% vs. 70% of the general population. When University of Utah researchers evaluated 215 fibromyalgia sufferers (200 women, 10 men, average age 45), they found that obesity appeared to greatly aggravate symptoms. For example, excess weight was linked to a 63% higher incidence of knee pain, a 30% higher prevalence of hip pain, and a 23% increased risk of muscle weakness.

Is the excess fat tissue contributing to fibromyalgia — or is reduced mobility and depression causing sufferers to gain weight? Most likely, there is a vicious cycle in which one condition aggravates the other. What’s clear is that obesity triggers an inflammatory response leading to many adverse health consequences, including skin disorders and joint pain. Previous researchers have linked higher BMIs with increased concentration of leptin (a hormone released by fat cells) in the joints. Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables not only helps you manage your weight without hunger, nutrient-dense produce also supports overall health.

 Published July 1, 2011