ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – A new study has found that birth control pills and obesity may increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Nearly 2.5 million people around the world are living with MS, a disease of the central nervous system. Conditions begin to onset between the ages of 20 and 40 most commonly.
Dr. Jorge Correale, of the Raúl Carrera Institute for Neurological Research in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and colleagues analyzed the body mass index (BMI) of 420 individuals aged 15 or 20 years. Of the 420 participants, 210 had MS while the other 210 did not.
Researchers found that participants who were obese at the age of 20 were twice as likely to develop MS later in life, compared to individuals the same who weren’t obese, Medical News Today reported.
The study results also revealed that participants who had a high BMI also had high levels of leptin in their blood. Leptin is a protein produced by fatty tissue that regulates the storage of fat in the body, an individual’s appetite and immune response.
In a separate study, Kaiser Permanente Southern California researchers analyzed 305 women who had been diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome, which is a precursor to the disease. These women were members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California for at least three years prior to the development of MS symptoms.
Researchers assessed the women for their use of birth control pills and compared them with 3,050 women who were free of the disease.
Twenty-nine percent of women with MS had used hormonal contraceptives for at least three months in the three years before MS symptoms began, while 24 percent of women without the disease had used birth control pills. The pills most women took were a combination of estrogen and progestin.
Researchers found that women who had used birth control pills were 35 percent more likely to develop MS, compared with women who didn’t use them. Also, women who were 50 percent more likely to develop MS had stopped using hormonal contraceptives one month before MS symptoms began researchers found.
“These findings suggest that using hormonal contraceptives may be contributing at least in part to the rise in the rate of MS among women,” lead study author Dr. Kirstin Hellwig said to Medical News Today.
Researchers will present the findings from both studies at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in April.