Obese Kids May See More Risk of MS

Children with obesity had more than double the risk of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis than slimmer kids
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2024 9:02 AM CDT
Obese Kids Claim Higher Risk for MS Than Others
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/ELENA BESSONOVA)

Scientists have long suspected that childhood obesity could play a role in the development of multiple sclerosis down the line, but now they appear to have verification, according to a new study. Per the Guardian, research out of Sweden's Karolinska Institute has found that kids who were obese had more than double the risk of coming down with the central nervous system disease later in life, even after adjusting for parents who had MS. "There are several studies showing that MS has increased over several decades, and obesity is believed to be one major driver for this increase," the researchers say in a release. "Thanks to our ... study design, we can confirm this theory."

Tapping into the Swedish Childhood Obesity Treatment Register, aka BORIS, scientists looked at data on more than 21,600 kids ages 2 to 19 who were considered obese, as well as that for more than 100,000 slimmer children. Researchers kept tabs on the kids in the study for six years, and during the follow-up period found that 0.13% of the kids in the obesity group had been diagnosed with MS, while just 0.06% of the subjects in the nonobese group received the same diagnosis. Dr. Clare Walton, head of research at the UK's MS Society, says the study is important to gain a deeper understanding on how obesity may be tied to multiple sclerosis.

Walton tells the Independent that scientists speculate MS is likely set off "by a mix of genetic and environmental factors," citing viruses, low levels of vitamin D, smoking, and yes, being medically obese as possible factors. "However, none of these alone will cause someone to develop MS," she says. Scientists say that "low-grade but chronic" inflammation brought about by obesity may boost the MS risk, as they believe it does for other diseases like diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and some cancers. The findings from the study will be delivered in May at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, Italy. (More discoveries stories.)

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