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Obesity linked to multiple sclerosis

A woman's risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) during her lifetime is doubled if she was obese at the age of 18 years.

Obesity linked to multiple sclerosis

A woman's risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) during her lifetime is doubled if she was obese at age 18 years.

MS is a disease of the central nervous system. While it is not usually fatal, it's a chronic unpredictable disease with no known cure. The symptoms, including dizziness, blurred vision, slurred speech, sexual dysfunction, incontinence, shakiness, loss of coordination, and weakness, can be debilitating when flare-ups occur.

To look into the association of body weight during teenage and odds of developing MS, researchers studied American women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II over 40 years. The participants answered questions throughout the study about their weight, height, body size, smoking and exercise habits, and disease status. Among more than 200,000 participants in the two groups, there were 593 cases of MS.

The study found no association between MS risk and having a large body size at ages 5 and 10 years or as an adult. However, obesity at age 18 years was associated with a greater than twofold increased risk of MS and a large body size at age 20 years was associated with a 96% increased risk of MS.

The findings also provide another reason to encourage a healthy weight in young people and suggest that the prevention of adolescent obesity may reduce the risk of developing MS.

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