Study Associates Obesity in Youth, Low Vitamin D Levels with MS Onset and Progression

Study Associates Obesity in Youth, Low Vitamin D Levels with MS Onset and Progression

A systematic review of existing medical literature on multiple sclerosis (MS) could shed light on MS causes and predictors for disease progression, and on lifestyle changes — ranging from vitamin D intake to weight loss — that might reduce a person’s risk. The report, Factors associated with onset, relapses or progression in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review, appeared in the journal NeuroToxicology.

Led by Kyla A. McKay of the Division of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, the researchers reviewed existing medical literature to uncover potential MS risk factors. Studies included those published between 1960 to 2012. The investigators used a total of six databases, and focused on those risk factors that can be modified by lifestyle changes or treatment. They identified 15 systematic reviews and 169 original articles.

Overall, the scientists uncovered several factors that could lead to MS onset and progression. These included Epstein-Barr virus exposure, smoking, low serum vitamin D levels, and adolescent obesity. MS relapse increased with low sunlight exposure, low serum vitamin D levels, upper respiratory infections, and stress. Interestingly, relapses dropped during pregnancy, for unclear reasons. Cigarette smoking also increased long-term MS-associated disability.

Investigators noted that obesity may be the most important factor uncovered by their study. “Emerging research with the greatest potential to impact public health was the suggestion that obesity during adolescence may increase the risk of MS; if confirmed, this would be of major significance,” they wrote.

Clearly, reducing obesity rates should be a major health priority for several reasons, including the impact on the onset of MS. The study also indicated several other lifestyle factors that can be modified to reduce MS risk or severity, including exposure to sunlight, increased vitamin D intake, smoking cessation, and stress reduction. Further studies that prospectively assess these factors, and their impact on MS progression and relapse, are warranted.

MS is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation. Immune cells attack the body’s own myelin, an insulating substance that helps nerve cells to conduct impulses. MS is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. There is increasing evidence that neuron death and loss of the axons that extend from neurons also occurs in MS, due to inflammation. MS causes several symptoms, including  sensory problems, cognitive deficits, emotional issues, pain, fatigue, balance problems, walking difficulties, and bladder problems.


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  2. Michael Dull says:

    These studies act as additional evidence backing up Dr. George Jelineks Overcoming MS program. He has been promoting vitamin D (preferably from sunlight), very low consumption of saturated fats, especially through dairy products, meditation for stress relief, not smoking, increasing exercise. Dr. Jelinek has been promoting this program ( a non profit) for several yrs. He has MS himself diagnosed in 1998 and hasn’t had a flare in 16 yrs. A very, very close relative of mine has MS went on Dr. Jelineks program shortly after his first major flare and hasn’t had one since (4 yrs). At this time this relative is showing NO signs of MS.

    • I have MS says:

      MS is an unpredictable disease and well-meaning people like Jelinek, or less well meaning profit-seeking charlatans, knowingly or unwittingly take advantage of that. I was diagnosed in 2000 and have not had a severe relapse since then, I also have Sphynx cats – that must be the reason why….or it may be just the way my MS progresses.

      The good thing about a placebo is that they still work even when you KNOW it’s a placebo. So if the diet isn’t sapping you of all the nutrients you need, keep on placebo-ing.


      • mike dull says:

        it is obvious that you have little knowledge of Dr. Jelineks program and could not have possibly read anything about his dietary approach. His diet is nutrient rich, just low in saturated fats and no dairy. Do yourself a favor and read his book. Also Dr. J encourages following standard MS drug regimens such copaxone. You are a shill for big pharma. Your attitude is pompous and demeaning it must be very self satisfying to be so highly intelligent. So by all means continue your closed minded way.

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