Obese kids twice as likely to get MS

A new study set to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, Italy, found a concerning link between childhood obesity and the heightened risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers scrutinised data from the Swedish Childhood Obesity Treatment Register (BORIS), examining 21,661 patients aged two to 19 years enrolled between 1995 and 2020. Their analysis, followed by a subsequent check-in after approximately 5.6 years, underscored a critical correlation between high BMI in adolescence and the likelihood of MS onset.

Among the obesity cohort, comprising individuals aged 20.8 years on average at follow-up, 0.13 percent had developed MS. In contrast, the corresponding figure in the general population stood at 0.06 percent. The incidence rate of MS per 100,000 people was 19.3 in the obesity cohort, nearly double the rate of 8.3 in the general population. Adjusted analyses, accounting for hereditary MS, revealed that the risk of MS development was over 2.3 times higher in the pediatric obesity cohort.

Interestingly, the average age of MS diagnosis was comparable between the obesity cohort (23.4 years) and the general population comparators (22.8 years). Professor Claude Marcus from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, emphasised the urgency of the findings, noting that childhood obesity appears to predispose individuals to early-onset MS at a rate more than double that of their non-obese counterparts.

The prevailing theory posits that the chronic low-grade inflammatory state commonly observed in obesity may be a mediating factor in this association. Marcus stressed the importance of understanding these underlying mechanisms to inform targeted prevention and intervention strategies aimed at mitigating MS risk in children and adolescents grappling with obesity.