Obesity is never healthy, and that may be especially true for people who also develop multiple sclerosis.
Obese people with MS are likely to see the disability linked to the disease rapidly worsen, according to German researchers who followed more than 1,000 patients in a new study.
Weight loss, they suggest, might help slow the progression of the disease.
The link between obesity and MS
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It can cause permanent disability or even death, and there is no cure. Symptoms usually start in the 30s or 40s.
“The findings from this study raise important questions about the role of elevated BMI (body mass index) on mechanisms that drive neurologic disability in MS,” says Dr. Fiona Costello, a professor of neurology at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada.
Obesity correlates with a higher risk of developing MS, she adds. “What has not been clear is how obesity is linked to disease severity and disability progression in individuals with MS. But a large body of published literature has shown that deleterious disease associations with obesity are not unique to MS.”
Obesity already has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as cognitive impairment and dementia, Costello notes.
This study can’t prove that obesity speeds up greater disability in patients with MS, only that the two seem to be connected, the researchers note.
How obesity impacts MS patients
Obesity can impact MS patients in the following ways: