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Study identifies risk factors for multiple sclerosis

Category: Autoimmune Diseases

Obesity in teenage girls may increase their risk of later developing multiple sclerosis (MS), new research indicates.

A study reported in the November 10 issue of Neurology tracked more than 238,000 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study between 1976 and 2002. After calculating the women's body mass index, the Harvard researchers found that obesity at the age of 18 more than doubles a woman's risk of developing MS, compared to slimmer teens, HealthDay News reports.

"Up until recently, we've looked at MS as a disease for which the onset can't be controlled," researcher Dr John Richert told the news source. "If all the incoming data from this study is correct, not smoking and maintaining an ideal weight might lower the risk of MS."

MS is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system which scientists classify as an autoimmune disease. When MS develops, the body's immune system attacks its own myelin cells, a fatty substance that covers nerve fibers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, while any measurement above 30 is obese.

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