Obesity linked to higher MS risk in teenage girls

Being obese may increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis in children and teenage girls, according to a study.

Researchers with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif., identified 75 children and adolescents diagnosed with pediatric MS between ages 2 and 18, and obtained body mass index scores from before symptoms appeared.

They compared those children with 913,097 children who did not have MS. All participants were grouped into weight classes of normal weight, overweight, moderate obesity and extreme obesity. A total of 50.6% of children with MS were overweight or obese, compared with 36.6% of the children who did not have MS.

The researchers found that the risk of developing MS was more than 1.5 times higher for overweight girls than for girls who were not overweight, nearly 1.8 times higher in moderately obese girls compared with girls of normal weight, and nearly four times higher in extremely obese girls. The same association was not found in boys.

“Over the last 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled,” Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, a study author from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif., said in a news release. “In our study, the risk of pediatric MS was highest among moderately and extremely obese teenage girls, suggesting that the rate of pediatric MS cases is likely to increase as the childhood obesity epidemic continues.”

“Even though pediatric MS remains rare, our study suggests that parents or caregivers of obese teenagers should pay attention to symptoms such as tingling and numbness or limb weakness, and bring them to a doctor¬ís attention,” added Langer-Gould, a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study is scheduled for publication in the journal Neurology. The study abstract is available at www.neurology.org/content/early/2013/01/30/WNL.0b013e31828154f3.abstract.

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