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Obesity and MS
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Obesity and MS

Opinions on this one would be interesting, I am overweight now and have struggled with my weight all my life but was not overweight as a teenager. I have been told many times over the years that my sx might be because I needed to lose weight and now this?

If the link does not work here is the article:

Teenage obesity in women may lead to multiple sclerosis later in life: study

BY Issie Lapowsky

Tuesday, November 10th 2009, 10:38 AM
Obesity during teen years was shown to be an indicator of multiple sclerosis in middle age, a study found. Obesity during teen years was shown to be an indicator of multiple sclerosis in middle age, a study found.

Researchers have found that teenage obesity may make women more likely to develop multiple sclerosis later in life.

The study comes from the Harvard School of Public Health and tracks 40 years in the lives of 238,000 women. It found that the women who were obese at 18 years old were twice as likely to develop MS. The findings were published in the medical journal Neurology.

Out of the women studied, 593 developed the condition, which breaks down nerve fibers, causing neurological deterioration.

Oddly enough, neither obesity in childhood nor obesity in adulthood showed any correlation with the condition, according to the report.

“Our results suggest that weight during adolescence, rather than childhood or adulthood, is critical in determining the risk of MS,” study author Kassandra Munger, ScD, told BBC News. “There’s a lot of research supporting the idea that adolescence may be an important time for development of disease, so what we have found is consistent with that.”

According to BBC News, researchers believe that the connection between teen obesity and MS may have something to do with vitamin D levels. Some research has indicated that high levels of vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing MS. Fatty tissue, however, often reduces a person’s vitamin D levels.

“Teaching and practicing obesity prevention from the start - but especially during teenage years - may be an important step in reducing the risk of MS later in life for women,” Munger told the BBC.

Susan Kohlhaas, research communications officer for the MS Society, however, told the BBC that the results are not wholly conclusive.

“This study does not account for several other factors that may play a role in causing MS. Based on that, more work is needed,” she told the BBC. “As such, it is difficult to determine whether teenage obesity could be a possible factor in causing MS in women.”

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29 Comments Post a Comment
405614 tn?1329147714
I've also struggled with my weight for most of my life (I remember a juice fast when I was 13), I'm trying to remember if I'd actually hit "obese" around 18, and its very possible. A few years later I was at normal weight and climbing mountains.  

Gee, if I had lost weight sooner, would I have not have gotten MS?  I'm still a caucasian female living all my life in the Pacific Northwest, with most of my ancestors coming from the northern part of Europe (with a little Northeast Native American mixed in the French Canadian part of my background).

I think it's interesting that studies are being done to try to pin down contributing factors to developing MS, so that attempts can be made to avoid those contributing factors in the future.  The connection with Vitamin D levels has been made before, and I find it interesting that  "fatty tissue often reduces a person's vitamin D levels"

Looking back through my records, when I was thinner and in the sun all summer long, my Vitamin D level was at 62, around where my PCP wants it now.  I've gained 40 pounds, and I reached that level after 8 weeks on 50,000 IU of Vitamin D a week.  Two months later, I'm back to 45; still normal, my neuro's fine with that, but my PCP wants it higher.

The last paragraph makes it clear that this is just one step in trying to understand what plays a role in causing MS.

There will always be doctors that write everything off to overweight.  I know I feel better when I weigh less, but it doesn't fix everything.  Both of my left knee ACL reconstructions failed when I was in the normal weight category, the second one I was never overweight, until now that it's already failed and I can't get it fixed until I have a total knee replacement.

My back and radicular pain was at its worst while I was at normal weight, as well as my meralgia parasthetica (lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment).  

My neurological symptoms started when I was still on the edge of normal weight, well, maybe starting into the overweight category, but close to normal. Fatigue has made it almost impossible to exercise, but didn't take away my appetite. I gained weight.

I think that a part of why my first three neurologists saw "small vessel ischemic disease" when they looked at my brain MRI (that said "multiple sclerosis" to the neuro-radiologist and my awesome new MS specialist as well as my PCP)  was because I was an overweight middle-aged woman.

It didn't matter that I didn't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or any other things pointing to small vessel ischemic disease other than non-specific lesions among the 30 - 40 lesions that were there.

Yesterday my PCP and I talked for the first time since I've been diagnosed, and she said that she couldn't understand how they could have missed it; she has no neurological background or training, yet it was so clear to her when she reviewed my brain MRI with the original neuro-radiolgist.  I didn't share my theory, just said "maybe they couldn't see the forest for the trees", meaning they couldn'ts see past the non-specific lesions to the clearly MS lesions.

Sorry, I'm running on.

My opinion; my symptoms aren't related to my weight; my fatigue contributed to its increase.  I'll attempt to lose weight so I can feel my best, though so far its been a real challenge.

As for the obesity as a teen, that barn door was left open long ago, the horse is in the pasture munching windfall apples.  :o)

I hope the research will continue and find ways to help people in the future.  I'll definitely take higher doses of vitamin D; my PCP wanted me to go back on mega-doses, but I think I'll try 4000 IU daily for a while.

Take care,


572651 tn?1333939396
That is an interesting take.... if that is a true pattern, then I would be the exception.  I did not put on the pounds until I was in my 40's and discovered how much I like beer.  

I was truly skinny as a child, and as a teenager.  My weight when I got married was 154 and I'm almost 6 foot tall.  So I can't blame my MS on adolescent weight.

738075 tn?1330579444
I'm in the same boat as Lu.  I was a skinny kid, a skinny teen, a skinny mom, and the weight came on in my late 30s to 40s.  Having a moody teenager in the house pointed me toward emotional eating.  Cheese, beer, and sugary snacks were my downfall.  I've since lost the weight, and was at a normal weight when diagnosed in May, though I've had symptoms off and on for 15 years.

Interesting article!  Thanks!
293157 tn?1285877039
umm... I was so skinny when I was a teen..and younger...I didn't put weight on till I had children at 26... so I don't get that..

interesting though.

Avatar f tn
I was sknny as a rail until about 7 years ago when I started having trouble with pain in my right side. I started avoiding the activities that tended to set it off, and that's when he pounds started coming on.

After a year of testing every interanal organ I have except my stomache, a pain specialist and surgeon decided to take out my gallbladder - even though tests showed it was functioning fine and that I didn't have any gallstones..

Well, it didn't fix the problem, and all these years later I'm still battling it. It's this horrible pressure that usually runs from just above the belly button, radiates up into my ribs and around my back - just the right side. It can be anywhere from irritating to downright excrutiating.

Now a new gastro doc thinks it could be neurological. MS specialist says it's possible, and a t-spine MRI is supposed to be one of the next steps in her plan.

Once you gain weight, it sure is hard to take it back off. My first neuro actually suggested that my weight was the entire reason for all my neurological problems - that is before he decided it was all in my head.

I'm still diagnosed...but this is an interesting read. At least they're trying to find answers.

Avatar f tn
I mean undiagnosed. Brain cramp!
429700 tn?1308011423
I was super skinny as a child and teenager.  I was overweight when I got into my 30's mostly because of the thyroid disorder.  There's a lot of people with MS with thyroid disease, so I'm wondering if this could be the reason . . .

198419 tn?1360245956
Hey Pat,

I think they should have had the tailend of this article as the actual "title" They say:    “This study does not account for several other factors that may play a role in causing MS. Based on that, more work is needed.”

Several? Ya think? This write up is deceiving, it's doesn't include the other factors -  the very factors that make it so difficult to identify an "exact" culprit and how they vary.

On our forum we've discussed the trends and what has been identified as risk factors, location, ON, etc., and it bothers me that this article has the potential to yet again make an MSer feel as if  we "ourselves" could have caused this by something they did or ate.

It's bull, and I'm sorry if I'm coming off as awnery, but this fires me up.  To not state the variables and simple risk factors where MS is concerned despite all the factual evidence and literature documented is negligent and misleading.

Hmpf -
Just don't want anyone thinking they caused this themselves! Dagnappit!!!!!!!!

198419 tn?1360245956

Maybe they should have stated what the odds are of developing obesity in our modern times, the likelyhood and lifestyles and food choice and changes, since the horse and buggy, etc....

ok, rant really done...
667078 tn?1316004535
It might go with the new theory that kinked blood vessels cause too much blood in the brain causing a breach in the blood brain barrier, setting up the autoimmune response. May be some obese people have kinked blood vessel and other people have the kinked blood vessels for another reason. Who knows.

All I know is I am now a pickle and a pickle can't go back to being a cucumber. I am not as interested as how I got an MS as I am slowing the progression.

559187 tn?1330786456
I  was a skinny teen too and really into athletics.  I wonder if they could find a link between us "skinnies" and developing MS later on in life.  Maybe notching up the age of obesity to the 30s and 40s would explain it in my case.  
Avatar f tn
I was a skinny child and teen - not so now though!

645390 tn?1338558977
That is interesting. I have never been skinny in my life!  Except at birth, I was about 4 lbs, my mother smoked about 3 packs a day at that point.
233622 tn?1279338505
Never skinny.  Never at my ideal weight.  My old MS doctor asked about my weight each time I saw him.

I am not terribly overweight.  I wear a 14.  But pack more pounds than can really be seen.  I always saw my bones and organs are heavy! :-)

My aunt who had MS was as skinny as can be.  At least they are trying to figure out what the cause of MS is.  

I suppose there will always be goofy assumptions until they find the real answer.

704043 tn?1298060444
no weight problem- cant even eat at times- wouldnt ms mess with some overeating and some not even getting hungry??  it meses with everything else!!     tick
378497 tn?1232147185
This is just a correlation and does not give us any information about causation. The proposed causation they discuss is purely speculative. I haven't looked at the paper, so I don't know what they've corrected for, but one thing I'd guess is that obese teens are far less likely to be outside, running around in the sun. It may be that the effects of fat on vitamin D and the effects of the indoor lifestyle on vitamin D may contribute. So, it may not be the obesity, per se, but the lifestyle that contributed to it. Likely, it's a suite of factors, rather than obesity itself.

I was slender as a teen, have never been obese, am not overweight.

634733 tn?1316629592
Only just picked this up as I flew off on hols just after I posted it.

Thanks so much for all your replies. I was also annoyed with this article as I thought it might give medics more 'excuses' and reasons to blame us. Your replies support the fact that this is VERY speculative especially as so many of you were skinny as teenagers.

Just so that you know, I have always struggled with my weight and at 5 foot 6 I am probably about 50lbs over but my sister is only 5 foot tall and very skinny, she also has MS, maybe they should have had used us in the study?nespecially as we had the same childhood, etc.

Again, some great points from all of you thanks

690549 tn?1288886321
GRRRRRR   Sounds to me, Pat, like a sexist notion from our fair sisters acrosss the sea (not you.) Don't we all just NEED another male doctor telling us *everything* would be better if we'd lose weight? In my opinion some male doctors can't even speak straight to an overweight female. Seems like it's an area they can seize on and somehow elevate themselves. Fortunately, my current neuro mentioned the MS/no exercise factor. He understands all my energy goes to just plain living with MS.

That said, I do think Bio's comments about lifestyle and Vitamin D make sense.

The last time I was NOT overweight was when I was a teen, just for the record. LOL Jane
147426 tn?1317269232
I, too, was skinny as a rail until my 40's.  By the time MS appeared I was obese.  So, I don't fit that either!

I agree, Bio's comment make much more sense!

611606 tn?1315521367
Well I guess since I have lost so much weight this year, my MS should go away.. How silly is this.. Some researchers are just Crazy and dumb... I hope  no one buys this nonsense..
{{{{{{{~!~}}}}}}} DJ

PS I was very skinny untill 1996 when I became more or less inactive... HELLO !!!! ;-)
Avatar f tn
I agree this is very simplistic reasoning. There is no way weight, in an of itself, could lead to MS, unless the medical community is totally clueless on this issue, which I believe is not so.

Anecdotal info is just that, and does not make for scientific data. However, if there are enough anecdotes to comprise a reasonable portion of the overall population, then surely it's worth another look. In my case, I've never been skinny. Sort of pudgy as a child, and as a teenager never weighed more than 120, which for someone 5 ft. 5 1/2 isn't a lot. All my life till the past 5 or 6 years I was an effortless size 6. (How I miss that!)

I'm betting that for every obese teenager who later developed MS, there is another person who's never been overweight who also has MS. Just for our own satisfaction, and not as a scientific study, we could turn this into a poll.

1307298 tn?1305950451
This is the most horrible summary of research I've read -- but what can be expected from the Everyday Health website (which is even worse than  Prevention Magazine which should never be looked to for any accurate representation of research).

There is also a similar summary of this on WebMD, but again, if you look at the doctor that reviewed and approved the article, she is not a neurologist, much less a neurologist that specializes in MD.  

This research shows correlation NOT causation, and the article implies causation. It is these kinds of articles that spread misinformation and alarm and mislead people.

This Everyday Health article has a quote by Ryan Coates, MD, who is an assistant professor of pediatric neurology and a pediatric neurologist who treats patients with MS.  The doctor says "I tell my patients that a healthy diet with a lot of grain foods and micronutrients can help lower the risk of MS.” This is totally counter to the types of diets that have so far been discussed and considered successful in MS. "A lot of grain" is not part of any of the diets considered for MS. There is not a lot of hard evidence for diets good for MS patients because their hasn't been funding, but the ones under limited research do not include grains.
1307298 tn?1305950451
That should say a neurologist that specialize in MS in the second paragraph -- obviously I was mildly worked up while writing that.
3054080 tn?1358726456
Although this is a fairly old post and I don't know if I have MS or not, but I   have always been on the skinny side and very active. I have seen quite a few posts from people who were athletic and then began having symptoms that impede them .

Even now, I find I have little appetite, have nausea and am losing weight.

Hugs, Minnie
3986919 tn?1352129583
I have been over-weight my whole life....BUT all the people I know who have MS were skinny! Every one of them...I am the exception.

I think the medical community is trying to blame "excess fat" on ANOTHER disease! Geez! Doctors would tell me when I had my first attack at 33, blamed everything on my weight and or stress!

3054080 tn?1358726456
Haha, a person is either too big or too small.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I gained 32 pounds. That made me a total of 137 (I weighed 105 when I became pregnant). I was told my baby would be underweight. She was born 3 weeks early andweighed 7lbs 3oz.

It rreally irritates me how the medical community seems to place such emphasis on weight. Yes, we should be as healthy as we can! I have a dear friend who eats very healthy and exercises but can't get below a certain weight and her doctors tend to blame everything on her weight. Ugh!

There are people who are a few pounds overweight who are healthier than peopleof so-called nnormal weight, and then vice versa.

Doctors should look at the whole person!   They use weight and mental health way too much!
4848471 tn?1372242352
I was a very thin child, went up to 155 lbs during an early puberty. I was 165 when I was 17, and went on yet another diet. I was 115-118 for ten more years, and now i'm stuck at 138 at 5'6".I think i've always had a borderline version of PCOS, as my blood values for hormones were way off, and my skin is a mess.
Could there be some correlation between MS and blood sugar disorders, I wonder?Or perhaps it's just a perfect storm of these two types?My paternal family is rife with autoimmune conditions, and my mother's side is for diabetes.
1045086 tn?1332130022
Relax everyone!  This is an OLD discussion.  I do believe if there had been anything to support this theory we would have heard more about it in the last three years.

Hibbles, did you know that some cases of diabetes have an autoimmune component?  I wonder if that is the case in your maternal family history.....  

I used to have a lot of problems maintaining my blood sugar.  I would run extremely low blood sugars for long periods of time after my first MS attack in 1990.  In my case the problem was apparently caused by MS damage that changed how food moved through my GI tract and how my endocrine system handled both physiological and emotional stressors.  

I believe PCOS is also thought to have an autoimmune component, even if the exact implications aren’t clear.  It could be that PCOS is an autoimmune process itself…. or that women with PCOS run a greater than average risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
3054080 tn?1358726456
Lol, I knew it was a kinda old thread but weight has always been one of those triggers for me.

I still love my ex-MIL dearly, she is truly a caring, giving person. Yet she was always trying to "get some meat on my bones." I would have people ask me how I stay so skinny, and some people even asked if I were anorexic! I wouldread tthe articles about people such as Calista Flockheart (sp) where they would talk about how skinny she was and comment sadly about the "lengths" some celebrities go through to be skinny.

My thoughts always were, what if she can't help it? I never tried to be skinny. I ate fairly well, although I was never really interested in food. I was always pretty active, but it wasn't on purpose to try to fit some Hollywood ideal.

We can all do things to improve our health. Yet we are all different and I think we can only do so much to change what nature intended.

JMHO, ;-)
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