Obesity and lupus

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

Obesity in America is on the rise, with 35% of U.S. adults considered obese. And while too much excess weight can be harmful to anyone’s health, it poses even greater risks for women with lupus. If you are a woman with lupus who is also coping with obesity, it can be especially challenging to manage your health. But it’s important to remember that obesity is about more than extra weight—it’s a disease with serious risks.

A recent study sponsored by the NIH suggests that women with lupus are likely to be impacted by obesity at a lower BMI (26.8 or higher) than the general population. This means that putting on a few pounds is riskier for women with lupus than for women without the disease. And since many people with lupus manage their disease with steroids, which can cause weight gain, they may find it especially hard to stay trim. The study also shows that women who were diagnosed with both lupus and obesity have more limitations in their daily lives, are more likely to suffer from a disability, and are less likely to be employed than women who are not obese.

Along with being socially stigmatized for their weight, people with obesity face numerous health risks, including:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory problems
  • Miscarriages

Since obesity can make it more difficult to cope with lupus, it is important for people with the disease to maintain a healthy weight. Low-impact exercise like walking, swimming, or gentle yoga can help. And while there is no special diet for people with lupus, it is important to eat well-balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. 

Take the first step towards a healthier life by talking with your health care provider to find a diet and exercise plan that works for you.