Study Finds Obesity Medications May Reduce The Risk Of MS

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A new study based on real-world data has found that obesity medications that are approved for medical use in the UK may also reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). Health News reports that the drugs, which are currently used to treat type 2 diabetes and aid weight loss, may be repurposed as a potential MS therapy. 

MS is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the central nervous system. In people with MS, the immune system erroneously attacks the protective covering of the nerve fibres (known as myelin) which is located in the brain and spinal cord. This disrupts the flow of electrical signals between the brain and the rest of the body. 

The disruption to the central nervous system can lead to a range of symptoms, which may get progressively worse over time, or relapse and recur in cycles. Common symptoms include poor coordination and difficulty walking; tremor; fatigue; dizziness; vision disturbances; and cognitive changes such as problems with memory and concentration.

There is currently no cure for MS, although research is ongoing to understand the condition better and develop potential treatments and cures. Currently, the treatment of MS mostly involves managing the symptoms, and may vary according to the severity and progression of the disease and factors such as general health, age, and preferences of the patient. 

The new study was carried out by US-based researchers, and is published in Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders. The researchers used real-world data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System database.

The researchers found that medicines that included semaglutide, and similar ingredients from the GLP-1 receptor agonists group, reduced the risk of developing MS by as much as 76 per cent. The medicines are designed to lower blood sugar levels. However, no link was found with other types of weight loss drug included in the study. 

The researchers said: ‘Drug repurposing, defined as researching new indications for already approved drugs, is gaining attention as a rapid and cost-efficient strategy for developing new treatments.’

The authors added: “Overall, this study hints at the possibility of considering anti-diabetic drugs with weight loss-inducing effects, especially GLP-1 receptor agonists, for potential repurposing opportunities in MS. These findings should be validated through complementary methodologies and prospective studies.”

The connection between obesity and MS has been previously studied, although researchers have been unable to pinpoint an exact link. It is thought that the increased inflammation levels in the bodies of obese people may make them more susceptible to MS. 

Meanwhile, another study has found that people who were obese in childhood are twice as likely to be diagnosed with MS. The Independent reports that the study was carried out by  academics from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and referred to data from the Swedish Childhood Obesity Treatment Register, which is known as Boris.

The researchers applied statistical analysis methods to data on 21,000 children diagnosed with obesity between 1995 and 2020, with an age range of two to 19. They compared the data with 100,000 with no obesity, and tracked each child for an average of six years. The results showed that the obese children were twice as likely to be diagnosed with MS. 

The average age for the diagnosis was 23 years old, described as early-onset MS. 

Study authors, associate professor Emilia Hagman and professor Claude Marcus, told the PA news agency: “One of the effects of obesity in childhood is that it causes a low-grade, but chronic, inflammation, and most probably this inflammation increases the risk to develop several diseases such as MS.

“It is also believed that chronic low-grade inflammation increases the risk for other such diseases are asthma, arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and some forms of cancers. However, we know that weight loss reduces the inflammation and most likely the risk to develop such diseases.”

Commenting on the study, Dr Clare Walton, head of research at the MS Society, said: “We don’t know for sure what causes MS, but research suggests it’s likely triggered by a mix of genetic and environmental factors, such as some viral infections and lower levels of vitamin D.”

However, it’s important to note that the exact causes of MS are not fully understood, and in many cases it may not be connected to weight or other lifestyle factors. 

If you are interested in finding out more about multiple sclerosis treatment or Gamma Knife surgery in the UK, please contact Mr Jonathan Hyam of Amethyst Radiotherapy.