WFU study named one of top 10 arthritis advances of 2004

By Maggie Barrett
December 7, 2004

Stephen Messier

Stephen Messier

The Arthritis Foundation has named Wake Forest University's Arthritis, Diet and Activity Promotion Trial (ADAPT) one of the top 10 arthritis advances of 2004. The foundation made the announcement Dec. 7.

"As the number of people with arthritis reaches epidemic proportions, advances in research, public health and public policy are more important than ever to preventing, controlling and eventually curing the nation's number one cause of disability," said Dr. John H. Klippel, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation.

"Breakthrough advances in 2004 offer hope to people with arthritis and provide a glimpse of what is possible in the future."

ADAPT was a joint study involving researchers from the university's health and exercise science department and the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Stephen Messier, professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest, was the principal investigator.

The study set out to determine if long-term exercise and dietary weight loss are more effective — either separately or in combination — than usual care in improving physical function, pain and mobility in older, overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis.

Study participants were divided into four groups: exercise only, dietary weight loss only, dietary weight loss plus exercise, and the control group called healthy lifestyle.

Messier and his colleagues found that study participants in the diet and exercise combination group saw the most improvement over the course of 18 months. Participants in the group experienced a 24 percent improvement in physical function, and a more than 30 percent decrease in knee pain.

"Considering that side effects often limit the use of drug therapy and surgical intervention is often ineffective for mild or moderate knee osteoarthritis, our results give strong support to the combination of exercise and weight loss as a cornerstone for the treatment of overweight and obese osteoarthritis patients," Messier said.

The results of ADAPT were published in the May 2004 issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. ADAPT was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Aging as part of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center of Wake Forest University.

The Arthritis Foundation describes itself as the single largest non-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world. It is the only nationwide, nonprofit health organization helping people take greater control of arthritis by leading efforts to prevent, control and cure arthritis and arthritis-related disease — the nation's number one cause of disability.

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