WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For newly diagnosed patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), obesity is associated with higher disease severity and poorer outcomes, according to a study published online Nov. 1 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Isabel Lutfullin, from the University Hospital Münster in Germany, and colleagues conducted a nationwide, longitudinal cohort study with 1,066 individuals with newly diagnosed MS to examine the association between obesity and disability accumulation. Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores, relapse rates, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings, and choice of immunotherapy were compared at baseline and years 2, 4, and 6 for obese (body mass index [BMI] ≥30 kg/m2) and nonobese (BMI <30 kg/m2) patients.

The researchers found that obesity at disease onset was associated with higher disability at baseline and at two, four, and six years of follow-up. The median time to reach EDSS 3 was 0.99 and 1.46 years for patients with and without obesity, respectively. Compared with nonobese patients, patients with obesity had a significantly increased risk for reaching EDSS 3 over six years after adjustment for sex, age, and smoking (hazard ratio, 1.87), independent of disease-modifying therapies. There was no significant association seen for obesity with higher relapse rates, increased number of contrast-enhancing MRI lesions, or higher MRI T2 lesion burden during a follow-up of six years.

“These data suggest that dedicated management of obesity should be explored for its potential merit in improving long-term clinical outcomes of patients diagnosed with MS,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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