The link between weight gain and multiple sclerosis



There's now one more reason to watch your figure: a high waist circumference increases the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). According to a group of Canadian and British researchers, when an average size woman gains 30 lbs., going from 150 to 180 lbs., and an average size man gains 40 lbs., going from 170 to 210 lbs., their risk of suffering from the autoimmune disease, which attacks the nervous system, rises by 41%.

Weight gain contributes to a drop in vitamin D rates, which increases the probability of developing the disease.

When he set out to explore the causes of MS—which are still poorly understood—Dr. Brent Richards, researcher at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital, became interested in the possible link between the disease and obesity. With colleagues in Canada and the UK, he correlated the data from two major international genetic studies on body mass index (BMI) and MS. The BMIs of 300,000 study participants were compared with 14,000 cases of MS and 24,000 control subjects. The results revealed that a BMI that increases from overweight to obese, especially in childhood and adolescence, fosters the onset of MS.

Why? The researchers suspect a vitamin D deficiency, since earlier studies confirmed that obesity and MS are both linked to a lack of the sunshine vitamin. Dr. Richards has therefore advanced the hypothesis that weight gain contributes to a drop in vitamin D rates, which increases the probability of developing the disease. Until the explanation is validated, Dr. Richards stresses the importance of helping people adopt healthy habits in childhood since MS often appears between the ages of 15 and 40.