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Adolescent Obesity Linked to MS Risk in Women

But study finds no significant multiple sclerosis risk found for body size in childhood

TUESDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Women who were obese in adolescence are at higher risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) as adults, according to a study in the Nov. 10 issue of Neurology.

Kassandra L. Munger, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues assembled data on women in the Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II, including weight at age 18 years, height and weight at baseline, and self-reported body type at ages 5, 10, and 20 years. Follow-up data on the women were analyzed for the incidence of MS.

The researchers found that the risk of MS for women who were obese (body mass index of at least 30 kg/m2) at age 18 was more than double that for non-obese peers (relative risk, 2.25). Also, having a large body size at age 20 was associated with a 96 percent increase in risk of MS. There were no significant associations discerned between body size at age 5 or 10 years and MS risk, or between body mass in adulthood and MS risk, the authors note, suggesting that weight during adolescence is critical in determining MS risk.

"Obese adolescents have an increased risk of developing MS. Although the mechanisms of this association remain uncertain, this result suggests that prevention of adolescent obesity may contribute to reduced MS risk," the authors write.

Several study authors reported receiving speaker fees from MS centers, serving as consultants for pharmaceutical companies, serving on the editorial board of Neurology, or serving on the scientific advisory board for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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