Down the Multiple Sclerosis Rabbit Hole said this of a 2016 childhood obesity study,

While obesity has been associated with many late-life outcomes, these findings suggest an important consequence of childhood and/or early adulthood obesity.

The research seems to imply that, while we have been warned about various bad outcomes, we had better not become jaded, because this one is really awful. Multiple sclerosis (MS) disrupts communication between the body and the brain. The most common type affects 85% of MS patients. And then there is a worse kind, and that is not the end of the bad news.

MS is not one of those late-onset diseases that the “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse” crowd refuse to worry about. No, even young people get it. Not a large proportion of them, but the ones who do are more likely to be overweight than lean, and more likely to be girls than boys.

A study published in Neurology compared 75 subjects, ages 2 to 18, and diagnosed with MS, to 913,000 children and teens not afflicted by the disease. While no one comes right out and claims that obesity causes multiple sclerosis, because that is far from proven, the researchers did learn that very obese girls are four times as likely to be diagnosed with pediatric multiple sclerosis than their normal-weight contemporaries.

Journalist Rachael Rettner wrote,

It could be that an aspect of the condition itself — such as having trouble exercising before the condition is diagnosed — predisposes youngsters to obesity. But if this were the case, researchers would expect to see the same link in girls and boys, which the study did not find…

Researcher Dr. Annette Langer-Gould noted that while inflammatory factors released from fat cells increase inflammation, so does estrogen, which adolescent females have in abundance, probably explaining why this link shows up in girls.

MS is widely believed to be an autoimmune disease. A recent study from Quebec’s Jewish General Hospital found that “an elevated body mass index has been shown to promote a ‘pro-inflammatory state,’ affecting the immune system.”

In other words, another link between obesity and MS. Does obesity cause MS? Some researchers read the evidence as an absolute yes. described how, apparently, even 30 pounds of body weight can make a drastic difference:

Results showed that a change in BMI from overweight to obese — which is equivalent to an average adult woman increasing in weight from 150 to 180 pounds — was linked with an increase of 40 percent in MS risk.

One source says the brain is 75% water and 60% fat (which adds up to 135%, betraying a lack of mathematical awareness.) Nevertheless, the brain is said to be the largest reservoir of fat. No one doubts that the myelin sheath, which insulates the nerves, is mostly composed of fat. According to Dr. Rick Sponaugle,

For this reason, fatty toxins are particularly damaging to myelin. When they deposit in the myelin sheath, they cause excessive inflammation; and, ultimately, they can cause the destruction of the myelin sheath as seen with multiple sclerosis.

A case can be made — not an airtight one, but someone is bound to make it — that obesity causes MS. It must be admitted that obesity and MS do hang out in the same bad neighborhood and are not good influences on one another. Mice experiments showed that the same environmental factors that appear to facilitate autoimmunity also appear in dysbiosis.

We are back in the multi-factorial soup, with everything somehow connecting to everything. As diabetic mice and obese mice are studied closely, more connections show up.

A very recent paper by Trevor O. Kirby and Javier Ochoa-Reparaz illuminates the relationship between MS and autoimmunity.

Another factor haunts the environs, namely, dysbiosis in the microbiome, which is said to cause inflammation. If extra weight leads to a pro-inflammatory state, if inflamed fat cells make toxins, and if fatty toxins destroy myelin, it seems like some pretty straightforward conclusions might be drawn.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity and multiple sclerosis: Is there a causal relationship?,”, 06/29/16
Source: “Childhood Obesity May Boost MS Risk,”, 01/30/13
Source: “Mold, Toxins, and Chemicals: What Are They Doing to Us and What Can We Do About Them?,”
Source: “The Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis: A Potential Therapeutic Avenue,”, 08/24/18
Photo credit: Cristian Bortes on Visualhunt/CC BY

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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