Researchers find link between obesity and severity of MS symptoms

Obesity is among the greatest aggravating factors in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, a new study has revealed.

The finding forms part of a new study, carried out by the Unit of Neurology and Neurorehabilitation of the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, into the relationship between excessive body weight and the severity of the disease.

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is the most common form of the disease, affecting around 85 per cent of all people diagnosed. In the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, symptoms – such as fatigue, vision problems, mobility loss and muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness – come in distinct attacks that then fade away either partially or completely.

This latest study looks into the severity of multiple sclerosis attacks and obesity among patients. Some 140 participants were involved in the study, who each had their weight and EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale) score recorded. The EDSS score is the tool most commonly used to assess the severity of multiple sclerosis.

Researchers found that at the time of diagnosis, obese patients have a greater risk of presenting higher EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale) scores.

The authors suggest that because multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory process, the metabolism of leptin – one of the hormones directly connected to body fat and obesity – may aggravate MS symptoms.

Commenting on the study, Mario Stampanoni Bassi, a Neurologist at Neuromed, said: “This study confirms that obesity is associated with greater symptomatic severity of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

“In particular, the analysis of cerebrospinal fluid has highlighted the role of leptin produced by fat cells. Previous studies have shown that leptin is directly involved in the complex relationship between metabolism and inflammation. Our results therefore suggest that excessive body weight, or altered lipid profile, are associated to increased central inflammation causing a worse clinical expression of the disease.”

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