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New evidence suggests link between obesity and MS

A new study has suggested that there is a causal link between obesity and MS.

It showed that people who are genetically predisposed to having a higher body mass index (BMI) are more likely to develop MS. This supports previous research that reported an association between obesity and MS.

Genetic studies

To understand more about the link between BMI and the risk of developing MS, researchers used data from two large genetics studies.

The GIANT study involved 322,105 people and investigated genetic factors associated with height and weight. The IMSGC study is the largest international genetic study of MS, having involved 14,498 people with MS and 24,091 people without MS.

Researchers found 70 genetic variants that were significantly linked to BMI, and analysed whether these were more common in people with MS. The results showed that people who carried these variants (and were therefore more likely to have a higher BMI) were at a higher risk of developing MS.

Causes of MS

Having a higher BMI has been associated with a number of changes in the body, but more research is needed to understand which of these changes could contribute to the development of MS.

Research so far has suggested that MS is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors, which together determine a person’s risk of developing MS.

Healthy lifestyle

Dr Sorrel Bickley, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society said:

“This is a valuable piece of research that adds to the evidence around the link between obesity and MS. Increasing our understanding of the environmental and genetic factors that are associated with developing MS is vital, and it’s great to see more research happening in this area. This study adds to wider evidence on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.”