Children with multiple sclerosis are at increased risk of becoming obese in childhood

In addition to the health problems children with multiple sclerosis (MS) face, a risk of obesity has entered the picture.

A new study conducted by pediatric MS specialists at the University at Buffalo has found that children with multiple sclerosis and other pediatric demyelinating disorders are at increased risk of childhood obesity, compared to children without these disorders.

The findings build on a study done by other researchers showing an association between obesity in adolescence and MS in adulthood, but this appears to be the first study to evaluate obesity in relation to pediatric demyelinating disorders.

Results of the current research were presented at a poster session at the 2011 American Academy of Neurology meeting held in April in Honolulu. E. Ann Yeh, MD, University of Buffalo (UB) assistant professor of neurology and a paediatric MS specialist in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is first author.

"We found that rates of obesity were high in children with demyelinating disorders and were especially prevalent in boys," says Yeh. "Boys with demyelinating disorders were almost twice as likely to have a BMI greater than the 95th percentile than boys in the control group."

The findings are based on the body mass index of 186 children: 41 with MS, 34 with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a monophasic demyelinating disorder seen primarily in childhood; 15 with clinically isolated syndrome, an individual's first demyelinating episode (distinct from ADEM); eight with recurrent optic neuritis (RON), inflammation of the optic nerve, and 87 children with other neurological disorders who served as controls.