The obesity epidemic is causing rates of rheumatoid arthritis to rise, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic.

For their study, the researchers looked at the records of 813 adults with rheumatoid arthritis and 813 adults as the control group. Rheumatoid arthritis cases rose by 9.2 per 100,000 from 1985-2007, the study found, and obesity accounted for 52 percent of the increase.

“We know that fat tissues and cells produce substances that are active in inflammation and immunity. We know too that obesity is related to many other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and now perhaps to autoimmunity,” said co-author Eric Matteson, M.D., chair of the Division of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Matteson says. “It adds another reason to reduce and prevent obesity in the general population.”

According to The Arthritis Foundation, massage therapy benefits rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.