Multiple sclerosis risk appears to rise due to obesity.
Multiple sclerosis risk may increase with obesity in children and teens. The researchers suspect that the hormone leptin, responsible for inhibiting hunger, may be mediating this association between obesity and the development of MS. The study was led by Dr. Jorge Correale who explained, “We need to do more work to understand the mechanisms involved in all the different environmental/habitual factors, including body mass index. If we understand mechanisms, we can propose treatment alternatives to decrease the risk to develop the disease or to prevent increase in the severity of the disease.”
For the study, body mass index (BMI) was calculated for 210 multiple sclerosis patients and 210 controls aged 15 to 20. The results showed that those who were considered obese – a BMI over 30 – at the age of 20 had double the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, compared to those who were not obese.
Hormone levels were measured as well, along with cytokine-producing cells. The researchers found that BMI increased with the raising serum leptin levels. On the other hand, high BMI was found to be associated with decreased levels of vitamin D. Dr. Correale added, “Leptin promotes inflammatory responses in the body, which could potentially explain the link between obesity and MS.”
“During the last few years, we have started to understand more about different factors involved in the genesis of MS. There is a genetic predisposition, and in addition some environmental factors or habits that are thought to increase the risk of developing the disease, such as smoking, low vitamin D, and Epstein-Barr virus infection. In addition, in animal models, increased amount of salt in the diet is thought to increase risk, and now it appears that obesity is an additional habit factor that can increase the risk of developing MS,” Dr. Correale continued.
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