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Obesity and Multiple Sclerosis

A study published in the January 30, 2013 issue of Neurology links obesity in girls to developing multiple sclerosis. This is yet another wake-up call as to how critical the childhood obesity issue is.

The researchers delved into the records of over 900,000 children who are part of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California study. They were surprised to find that severely obese girls were nearly four times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis issues when compared with their healthy-weight counterparts. The girls were more seriously affected than boys were.

Part of the problem is that multiple sclerosis can be triggered by inflammatory mediators. When someone is obese, their body ends up in a near permanent state of being "inflamed" due to all the pressure on their body parts by the weight. This then couples with a girl's being in puberty and having a menstrual cycle. That cycle also creates similar responses, which exacerbates the situation.

Multiple sclerosis is a challenging disease which often first presents itself during teenage to young adult years. It involves the actual cells of the brain and spinal column becoming damaged by the body's own systems. This leads to degenerating functionality of the body which can include becoming wheelchair bound. Researchers are still not exactly sure what causes multiple sclerosis, and there is no known cure.

I have several friends with multiple sclerosis and have a glimpse of how challenging this disease can be. Especially with there being no cure, people who have multiple sclerosis have to do their best to manage their symptoms each day and hope that they don't worsen.

With all the challenges already facing our young people, quadrupling their risk of multiple sclerosis seems one we should absolutely want to avoid. If you know of a young woman who struggles with obesity, find ways to help. Offer to go on fun walks or other motion-based activities. Go out to eat at places with nutritious food. Model a healthy lifestyle. By taking actions one positive step at a time, we can work to reverse the trend which, as of October 2012, had 17% of the US childhood population being obese.

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