The Link Between Weight and MS

Did you know that your teenager's weight today could affect her risk of getting multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life? That's the upshot from a study that was conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Scientists looked at women who had MS to understand how their weight as a teenager correlated with developing this disease in adulthood. Their findings, which were published in the journal Neurology in November of 2009, found that teenagers who were considered obese at age 18 had more than twice the likelihood of being affected with MS in adulthood than their thinner counterparts.

While the relationship between weight and MS may not be clear-cut, scientists believe it can be traced back to several possible factors. First, vitamin D may play an important role in protecting people from a variety of diseases, including MS. However, women who are obese generally have lower levels of this important vitamin, and therefore could be at increased risk for MS as a result. Further, when a woman is obese, the fatty tissues in her body can weaken the immune system and affect certain cell activities that can be related to MS.

Tracking Weight and MS

It's interesting to note that the weight and MS study was based on the results from the Nurses' Health Study, which includes women's self-reported information on their weight at different ages, including five, 10, 18 and 20. Researchers also asked the women to identify the body silhouette that they most closely identified at these ages. This information was used to calculate their body mass index.

The findings also determined that women who were overweight, but not obese, at age 18 were at increased risk for MS, but not to the same extent as their obese peers.

Finally, the weight of a child at ages 5 and 10 didn't seem to directly correlate with increased risk of MS. However, this doesn't mean that children who are overweight at a young age are risk free by any means.

Other Lessons Learned

The fact is that kids who have poor eating habits when they're young often continue the trend of eating badly as they grow older. Therefore, you can help reduce your child's risk right from the start by teaching her to eat well-balanced meals, watch portion size and get plenty of exercise. In addition to reducing her weight and MS risk, she can also reap many other health benefits.



European Journal of Pediatrics

International Journal of Obesity

Neurology Journal

Science Daily