BUFFALO, N.Y. In addition to the health problems children with
multiple sclerosis face, a risk of obesity has entered the
A new study conducted by pediatric MS specialists at the
University at Buffalo has found that children with multiple
sclerosis and other pediatric demyelinating disorders are at
increased risk of childhood obesity, compared to children without
The findings build on a study done by other researchers showing
an association between obesity in adolescence and MS in adulthood,
but this appears to be the first study to evaluate obesity in
relation to pediatric demyelinating disorders.
Results of the current research were presented at a poster
session at the 2011 American Academy of Neurology meeting held in
April in Honolulu. E. Ann Yeh, MD, UB assistant professor of
neurology and a pediatric MS specialist in the UB School of
Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is first author.
"We found that rates of obesity were high in children with
demyelinating disorders and were especially prevalent in boys,"
says Yeh. "Boys with demyelinating disorders were almost twice as
likely to have a BMI greater than the 95th percentile than boys in
the control group."
The findings are based on the body mass index of 186 children:
41 with MS, 34 with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a
monophasic demyelinating disorder seen primarily in childhood; 15
with clinically isolated syndrome, an individual's first
demyelinating episode (distinct from ADEM); eight with recurrent
optic neuritis (RON), inflammation of the optic nerve, and 87
children with other neurological disorders who served as
Although obesity has been linked to heart disease and diabetes,
among other illnesses, little is known about its relationship to
inflammatory demyelinating disorders.
"Increasing rates of childhood obesity have been reported widely
in the media and in medical journals," says Yeh, "but no
information is available on the relationship between obesity and
childhood-onset demyelinating disorders."
Subjects in the current study were patients of UB's Pediatric MS
and Demyelinating Disorders Center of Excellence at Women and
Children's Hospital of Buffalo. Data were collected prospectively
between January 2003 and October 2010 in patients under the age of
BMI scores, percentile of age scores, and a measure called BMI
z-scores were calculated at disease presentation, using a
standardized pediatric BMI calculator. (A Z-Score is a statistical
measure that shows how a single data point compares to normal
Results showed that rates of overweight and obese children were
greater in the demyelinating groups than in the control group, and
that boys in the demyelinating groups were twice as likely as girls
to have a BMI in the 95th percentile or greater.
"These findings underscore the need for attention to the
nutritional and physical needs of children with these disorders,"
states Yeh. "Comprehensive programs oriented toward the prevention
of obesity in all children are needed, but we also need further
studies to help define the relationship between obesity and risk
for demyelinating disorders."
Murali Ramanathan, PhD, UB professor of pharmaceutical sciences
and neurology, and
Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, PhD, UB associate professor of
neurology, both associated with the Pediatric MS and Demyelinating
Disorders Center of Excellence, also contributed to the
The study was funded in part by the Children's Guild Foundation
of Buffalo. Clinical care at the Pediatric MS Center of Excellence
is supported by the National MS Society.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.