Childhood body mass index and multiple sclerosis risk: a long-term cohort study

Mult Scler. 2013 Sep;19(10):1323-9. doi: 10.1177/1352458513483889. Epub 2013 Apr 2.


Background: Obesity in late adolescence has been associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS); however, it is not known if body size in childhood is associated with MS risk.

Methods: Using a prospective design we examined whether body mass index (BMI) at ages 7-13 years was associated with MS risk among 302,043 individuals in the Copenhagen School Health Records Register (CSHRR). Linking the CSHRR with the Danish MS registry yielded 774 MS cases (501 girls, 273 boys). We used Cox proportional hazards models to estimate the hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results: Among girls, at each age 7-13 years, a one-unit increase in BMI z-score was associated with an increased risk of MS (HR(age 7)=1.20, 95% CI: 1.10-1.30; HR(age 13)=1.18, 95% CI: 1.08-1.28). Girls who were ≥95(th) percentile for BMI had a 1.61-1.95-fold increased risk of MS as compared to girls <85(th) percentile. The associations were attenuated in boys. The pooled HR for a one-unit increase in BMI z-score at age 7 years was 1.17 (95% CI: 1.09-1.26) and at age 13 years was 1.15 (95% CI: 1.07-1.24).

Conclusion: Having a high BMI in early life is a risk factor for MS, but the mechanisms underlying the association remain to be elucidated.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; cohort studies; obesity; risk factors in epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Risk Factors