Obesity is common among patients with multiple sclerosis (pwMS) and has been shown to exacerbate central inflammation, a key factor in disease progression. The purpose of this cross-sectional study is to examine the possible relationships between obesity, as measured by body mass index (BMI), and MS-related brain changes in atrophy and lesion volume, as measured from MRI, in a large, representative sample of pwMS.
BMI and MRI data, along with demographic and disease variables, were acquired from the Multiple Sclerosis Partners Advancing Technology and Health Solutions (MS PATHS) registry. Unadjusted and adjusted partial correlations, controlling for gender, race, age, education level, MS phenotype, disability and disease duration, examined the associations between BMI and MRI outcomes, which included brain parenchymal fraction, white matter fraction, gray matter fraction, thalamic volume, and T2 lesion volume.
The sample consisted of 3,046 pwMS. Unadjusted and adjusted BMI-MRI correlations accounted for between 0.4% and 2.0% of shared variance (R). When considering the relationship between MRI outcomes and BMI category (normal weight, overweight, obese), multiple regression analyses continued to show minimal association, with BMI category accounting for no more than 1.5% of shared variance.
No clinically meaningful associations were found between BMI and MRI outcomes in this large, representative sample of MS patients, regardless of demographics and disease variables. These unexpected negative results will require replication with a longitudinal design using more precise measures of obesity.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.