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Children Who Are Considered Obese Are Twice As Likely To Develop Multiple Sclerosis, According To New Study

Children who are considered obese could face more than double the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) as adults, according to a new study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. 

MS can impact the brain and spinal cord. It causes a range of potential symptoms such as problems with arm or leg movement, sensation, balance, or vision. MS can also lead to serious disability throughout one’s life. 

The Karolinska Institute will be presenting the findings of their study at the European Congress on Obesity in May in Venice. 

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Previous research has speculated that there is a link between high body mass index (BMI) in adolescence and a larger risk of MS in adulthood, however, most of the studies that suggested this were using self-reported data, so it was difficult to arrive at an accurate conclusion. 

With this particular study, the researchers wanted to evaluate the risk of developing MS by utilizing a large population of obese children to compare with the general population.

According to reports from the Guardian, researchers analyzed data from the Swedish Childhood Obesity Treatment Register, which utilizes a database known as Boris. This institute is one of the world’s largest registries for treatment of childhood obesity.

The study looked at data from more than 21,600 children with obesity aged two to 19 who joined the registry between 1995 and 2020. The children, on average, started their treatment for obesity when they were around 11-years-old. They also compared that data to more than 100,000 children without obesity to get the greatest comparison possible. 

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The children monitored in the study were tracked for about six years, and during the follow-up period, 28 of those with obesity were diagnosed with MS (0.13% of the group) and 58 in the group without obesity (0.06% of the group). 

Within both groups, the average age of the MS diagnosis was 23-years-old. 

“Despite the limited follow-up time, our findings highlight that obesity in childhood increases the susceptibility of early-onset MS more than twofold,” the authors stated. 

“One of the effects of obesity in childhood is that it causes a low-grade but chronic inflammation, and most probably this inflammation increases the risk to develop several diseases such as MS,” study authors, Emilia Hagman, an associate professor, and Prof Claude Marcus, said.

“It is also believed that chronic low-grade inflammation increases the risk for other such diseases as asthma, arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and some forms of cancers. However, we know that weight loss reduces the inflammation and most likely the risk to develop such diseases.”