Higher weight in adolescence and young adulthood is associated with an earlier age at multiple sclerosis onset

Mult Scler. 2015 Jun;21(7):858-65. doi: 10.1177/1352458514555787. Epub 2014 Nov 12.


Background: Growing evidence suggests an association between adolescent obesity and increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Objective: The objective of this paper is to investigate whether weight or body mass index (BMI) in adolescence and young adulthood was associated with age at MS symptom onset.

Methods: Our cohort is comprised of a sub-group of 184 women enrolled in the New York State MS Consortium registry. Individuals were asked to recall their weight at the time of first menstruation and at age 25. BMI was calculated accordingly for age 25. Regression analyses were carried out to investigate the association between weight or BMI and age at onset.

Results: Weight at menarche was significantly related to younger age at symptom onset (β = -0.073, p = 0.001). These results were also found at age 25 for weight (β = -0.080, p < 0.001) and BMI (β = -0.448, p = 0.001). Significantly earlier disease onset (26.9 years ±9.9) was observed in individuals who were overweight at 25 compared to those who were not overweight (32.1 years ±9.2, p = 0.006).

Conclusions: Women who reported higher weight in adolescence and BMI in early adulthood were younger at MS onset. Future research should investigate whether there is a causal link between body weight and MS, as prevention lifestyle and dietary interventions could be implemented.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; age at onset; body mass index (BMI); menarche; obesity; weight.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Overweight / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult