Researchers at Kaiser Permanente of Southern California studied a possible relation between childhood obesity and pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (MS) or its potential precursor, clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), which encompasses optic neuritis (ON) and transverse myelitis (TM). Seventy-five newly diagnosed pediatric cases of MS or CIS were identified between 2004 and 2010; 41 (55%) were girls, and 54 (72%) were age 11-18. Onset of MS/CIS was uncommon at ages 2-11 years. Thirty-eight (50.7%) children or adolescents with MS/CIS were overweight or obese. Obesity was associated with a significantly increased risk of MS/CIS in girls but not in boys. Moderately and extremely obese patients were more likely to present with TM compared with normal/overweight children (p=0.003). [1]

COMMENT. Childhood obesity is independently associated with an increased risk of pediatric-onset MS/CIS in girls but not in boys. The authors speculate that the rapid rise and high estrogenic exposure of obese, peripubescent girls coupled with inflammatory mediators released by adipose tissue accelerate MS/CIS onset in adolescence. Pregnancy in females and tobacco smoke among males [2], additional potential risk factors for MS, were not addressed in this study. The need to further address the progress of the childhood obesity epidemic is stressed, especially in girls.