New study looks at links between early adulthood obesity and risk of multiple sclerosis
New research published in the journal PLOS Medicine indicates that a link exists between obesity in early adulthood and an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).
The study, conducted by a team from the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, Quebec, Canada, provides further confirmation of an association between obesity and the disease, which had previously been seen in observational studies.
The causes of MS, a progressive neurological disorder which can lead to disability and death, are still poorly understood, making the new research important for shedding further light on the causes of the disease and helping to identifying preventive measures.
To carry out their research the team looked at statistics from the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) consortium, the largest genome-wide association study for BMI and the International MS Genetics Consortium (IMSGC), the largest genome-wide association study for MS, to investigate, whether genetically determined obesity was associated with increased risk of MS.
The data included 322,105 cases from GIANT and 14,498 cases from IMSGC, as well as 24,091 controls.
The results showed that an increase in body mass index (BMI) from overweight to obese (equivalent to an average size adult woman increasing in weight from 150 to 180 pounds/68kg to 81kg) was associated with an increase of about 40 per cent in the risk of MS.
Although obesity has already been associated with the onset of various diseases, the new results suggest yet another important consequence of childhood and/or early adulthood obesity and provide further reason for tackling rising global obesity rates.
The results of the study also suggest the importance of further research into whether making healthy lifestyle changes could reduce the risk of the disease, with the authors concluding that an increase in BMI could be an important and also a potentially modifiable risk factor for MS. The team added that “These findings may carry important public health implications because of the high prevalence of obesity in many countries…because the] median age of onset for MS is 28-31 years. [These findings should provide motivation] to combat increasing youth obesity rates by implementing community and school-based interventions that promote physical activity and nutrition.”