While literature on the relationship between obesity and multiple sclerosis (MS) may be limited, there is a growing consensus that a link exists between the 2 conditions. In the United States, the increase in immune-mediated diseases appears to be closely aligned with the rise in obesity.
Patricia K. Coyle, MD, professor in the Department of Neurology at Stony Brook University in New York, describes several effects obesity can have on the central nervous system (CNS), including increased brain atrophy, decreased brain function, and increased cognitive impairment. She stresses that all patients with or without an immune-mediated disease should follow a health maintenance and wellness program that includes cardiac risk factor—reduction strategies, including weight loss.
Dr. Coyle presents data from studies that illustrate that connection between weight loss in adolescents and a reduced risk of developing MS in the future. (Hedstrom AK et al.Neurology. 2014;82:865-872.) In addition, she describes the positive CNS effects patients achieved after receiving bariatric surgery for obesity. (Marques EL et al. J ClinEndocrinolMetab. 2014;99:E2347-E2352.) According to Dr. Coyle, weight loss improves CNS reserve and, thus, can be regarded as a disease-modifying treatment.