Obesity might increase risk of MS for certain kids

July 20, 2019

A new study from Germany highlights another reason to fight childhood obesity: to reduce the risk of developing pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as protect the efficacy of first-line treatment for the disease.

A new study from Germany highlights another reason to fight childhood obesity: to reduce the risk of developing pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as protect the efficacy of first-line treatment for the disease.

Researchers used medical records and the database at the Center for MS in Childhood and Adolescence in Göttingen, Germany. The sample included 453 children with relapsing-remitting pediatric MS who had a body mass index (BMI) measurement that had been taken within 6 months of the MS diagnosis. Disease onset occurred between April 28, 1990, and June 26, 2016, and the average disease duration was 38.4 months. The BMIs were compared with BMI data from 14,747 controls, which was pulled from a nationwide child health survey.

Of the 453 children studied, 306 were girls. The average age at diagnosis was 13.7 years. One hundred twenty-six of the children were either overweight or obese and obesity was linked to a statistically significant 2-fold odds of MS for both boys and girls, with girls having slightly higher odds than boys (girls, odds ratio [OR], 2.19; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5-3.1; P < .001; vs boys, OR, 2.14; 95% CI, 1.3-3.5; P = .003).

When compared with nonoverweight MS patients, children with MS who were obese/overweight were found to have significantly more relapses while on first-line treatments such as interferon beta and glatiramer acetate, with an annualized relapse rate of 1.29 versus 0.72, respectively. Obese patients with MS were also more likely to be using second-line treatment than their nonoverweight counterparts, 56.8% versus 38.7%, respectively.

The researchers concluded that obesity appears to be associated with an increased risk of pediatric MS and that obese children with MS may not do well with first-line medications. They stated that altered pharmacokinetics are the likely factor in treatment response and that adjusting the dose according to BMI while helping the child achieve a healthy weight could help improve therapy responses.