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Obese Teenagers May Have Higher Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

November 9, 2009

BBC News reported today on a study out of the Harvard School of Public Health that has discovered a possible link between teenage obesity and multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life.

The 40-year study of 238,000 women found that those who were obese at 18 had twice the risk of developing MS compared to women who were slimmer at that age. Interestingly, the study found no association between MS and obesity during either childhood or adulthood. According to study author Kassandra Munger:

“Our results suggest that weight during adolescence, rather than childhood or adulthood, is critical in determining the risk of MS. 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.”

Of course, researchers were quick to state that further studies are needed to confirm the findings.

The Mayo Clinic describes MS as “a potentially debilitating disease in which your body’s immune system eats away at the protective sheath that covers your nerves. This interferes with the communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Ultimately, this may result in deterioration of the nerves themselves, a process that’s not reversible.

Symptoms vary widely, depending on the amount of damage and which particular nerves are affected. People with severe cases of multiple sclerosis may lose the ability to walk or speak. Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose early in the course of the disease, because symptoms often come and go — sometimes disappearing for months.

Although multiple sclerosis can occur at any age, it most often begins in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than are men.”

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