Childhood obesity could increase the risk of multiple sclerosis later in life.
Obese children and young adults appear to be at a considerably higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to researchers at the McGill University in Canada and collaborators at the University of Bristol in the U.K., who found a causal relationship between the two.
Their study, “Obesity and Multiple Sclerosis: A Mendelian Randomization,” published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Several observational studies suggest that obesity, as measured by body mass index (BMI), in a person’s younger years is associated with an increased risk of MS. One, called the Nurses’s Health Study, enrolled 238,371 women with a BMI of 30 or more at age 18 and associated obesity with a 2.25-fold increase in MS risk, suggesting that obesity may be involved in disease development by promoting a proinflammatory state.
Despite such findings, most MS studies do not take into account lifestyle factors that influence BMI, opening such research to misinterpretation of results and leaving the possible connection between a high BMI and MS undeveloped. Now, researchers revealed that obesity is causally associated with MS, meaning it can cause disease onset, making efforts to control a young person’s weight even more important that previously thought. They also suggest that vitamin D levels, which are thought to decrease as a person’s weight increases, may be a mechanism behind this association.
To establish the causal relationship between high BMI and MS, researchers tested whether genetic variations influencing BMI are also associated with MS. This allowed the team to provide an estimate that was not influenced by confounding factors.
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