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The Link Between Obesity And Multiple Sclerosis, Here's What We Know So Far

First Posted: Jun 30, 2016 08:44 PM EDT

Multiple sclerosis is an unstable condition in the central nervous system. People affected by this disease have a disrupted communication between the brain and the body. The risk factors of this disease have yet to be determined and understood. Now, a new study probes on the connection between multiple sclerosis and obesity.

The National Institute of Health said that many health experts claim that multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system invades its own tissues. In the MS' case, the body attacks the myelin, which is known as a nerve-insulation.

According to Medical News Today, the study was done by a team from Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, Quebec, Canada was led by Dr. Brent Richards. It provides additional proof between obesity and MS, which had been seen by previous observational studies.

The causes of this progressive neurological disorder are still not fully understood meaning that the new research is important for discovering more information about the what causes the disease and to help identify further measures that can be done to prevent it.

"These findings may carry important public health implications because of the high prevalence of obesity in many countries," the study's authors wrote. "For instance, approximately 17 percent of youth and 35 percent of adults living in the United States are considered to be obese. Therefore, the identification of elevated BMI as a susceptibility factor for MS places a high proportion of the population at a relatively higher risk for MS."

Medical Daily reported the study reviewing 125 different studies with almost a total of 339,224 individuals. They analyzed the genome of each of the study's subject and looked for markers that show multiple sclerosis. After that, they calculated the participant's body mass indexes (BMI to determine obese patients and the weight they may have gained as time pass. It showed that those who had a change in their BMI, from overweight to obese, had around 40 percent higher risk of having multiple sclerosis.

That simply means that if an average size woman weighing 150 pounds gained 30 more pounds, she would not only put herself at an elevated risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, but also a much higher chance of developing multiple sclerosis.

Although past observational studies suggested a link between obesity in early adulthood and MS risk, the researchers say that results are partial due to puzzling and reverse causation could have influenced it, Yahoo News reported.

Because multiple sclerosis usually affects young to middle-aged adults between the ages of 20 and 50, the authors said that there are other reasons  to make sure these people need to avoid being obese. The study results suggest that obesity in early life is indeed causally related to multiple sclerosis risk.

"Genetically elevated BMI is associated with risk of MS, providing evidence for a causal role for obesity in MS etiology. While obesity has been associated with many late-life outcomes, these findings suggest an important consequence of childhood and/or early adulthood obesity," study's authors said.

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