Objective: To determine whether childhood obesity is a risk factor for developing pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).
Methods: Cases were identified through the Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) pediatric acquired demyelinating diseases cohort between 2004 and 2010. For cases, body mass index (BMI) was obtained prior to symptom onset, for the underlying cohort BMI was obtained through the KPSC Children's health study (n = 913,097). Weight classes of normal weight, overweight, moderate obesity, and extreme obesity were assigned based on BMI specific for age and sex.
Results: We identified 75 newly diagnosed pediatric cases of MS or CIS, the majority of which were in girls (n = 41, 55%), age 11-18 (n = 54, 72%). Obesity was associated with a significantly increased risk of MS/CIS in girls (p = 0.005 for trend) but not in boys (p = 0.93). The adjusted odds ratio and 95% confidence intervals for CIS/MS among girls was 1.58 (0.71-3.50) for overweight compared to normal weight (reference category), 1.78 (0.70-4.49) for moderately obese, and 3.76 (1.54-9.16) for extremely obese. Moderately and extremely obese cases were more likely to present with transverse myelitis compared with normal/overweight children (p = 0.003).
Conclusion: Our findings suggest the childhood obesity epidemic is likely to lead to increased morbidity from MS/CIS, particularly in adolescent girls.