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Obesity May Be Linked to MS Risk in Children
Date:1/30/2013

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight or obese children, particularly adolescent girls, may face a higher risk for developing multiple sclerosis, new research suggests.

And the heavier they are, the greater the risk, the study authors added.

The findings are preliminary, but other health risks of being overweight or obese include increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease -- even in children.

"Childhood MS is still extremely rare, but the health implications of being exceedingly obese are well understood," said study author Dr. Annette Langer-Gould, a neurologist at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, in Pasadena. "This is another reason to help your child lead a healthier lifestyle and lose any excess weight."

MS affects between 8,000 and 10,000 children in the United States, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This autoimmune disease occurs when the body misfires against a part of its central nervous system -- the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms, which range in severity and tend to come and go, include numbness, vision problems, and gait and balance issues.

The new study included 75 children and adolescents with MS who were diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 18. Researchers compared these kids to more than 900,000 of their healthy peers enrolled in a larger health study. Slightly more than 50 percent of the children with MS were overweight or obese before they were diagnosed. By contrast, just shy of 37 percent of children without MS were overweight or obese.

This risk was more pronounced among overweight girls, the study showed. The same did not hold in boys. The findings appeared online Jan. 30 in the journal Neurology.

Like obesity in kids, childhood MS also seems to be increasing, but whether it is a true rise or if doctors are just getting better at recognizing
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