Welcome! This blog contains research & information on lifestyle, nutrition and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of the endothelium and heart-brain connection. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the auto-immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 20 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Obesity and birth control pills raise MS risk

Two new studies will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual meeting in Philadelphia during April 26-May 3.
These studies shed more light on the vascular connection to MS.

One study looked at the connection between obesity and MS risk--

For the obesity study, BMI was calculated for 210 people with MS and 210 people of the same age and sex who did not have MS at ages 15 and 20 and at the time of the study. The study found that people who are obese at age 20 are twice as likely to later develop MS as people who are not obese.

This study is one of many recent studies finding the connection of higher BMI, obesity and increased risk of developing MS.  The researchers posit that higher levels of the hormone leptin may be promoting an inflammatory response.  They never once mention the cardiovascular connection of the heart and the brain.

Here is Dr. Ronald Cohen from the University of Florida on the relationship of obesity to brain health.  He discusses the link of increased BMI to reduced cerebral blood flow, reduced gray matter volume and increased white matter abnormalities.

When we looked at brain volume and gray matter volume specifically, we found that in this cohort of people without comorbid conditons, but with a range of BMI, what we found was increased BMI was related to reduced cortical or gray matter volume, suggestng that there are actual relationships between obesity and structural brain changes. Subsequent findings from other studies that were conducted along the way, just looking strictly at obese populations, indicated relationships between other markers as well. White matter hyperintensities were increased in people with morbid obesity, but even among people who were overweight or mildly obese, there were some relationships between white matter abnormalites.

This became even clearer when we used diffusion tensor imaging, a method by which we can measure the coherense of white matter. ... Those types of findings suggested that coherence of white matter decreased as a function of BMI as well. When we look at blood flow in the brain (this was from a study of heart failure and the relationship of obesity) what we find is that obesity and cerebral blood flow are negatively correlated and together relate to cognitive problems among people with heart failure. So that was another finding that links obesity with cerebral blood flow or another marker.

The other study looked at the connection between birth control pill use and MS--

For the birth control hormone study, researchers identified 305 women who had been diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome, during a three-year period from the membership of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and who had been members for at least three years before the MS symptoms began. Then they compared them to 3,050 women who did not have MS.

A total of 29 percent of the women with MS and 24 percent of those without MS had used hormonal contraceptives for at least three months in the three years before symptoms began. The majority used estrogen/progestin combinations.

Women who had used hormonal contraceptives were 35 percent more likely to develop MS than those who did not use them. Those who had used the contraceptives but had stopped at least one month before symptoms started were 50 percent more likely to develop MS.

It is scientific fact that obese women and women who take birth control pills have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and venous thrombosis.  And obese women on birth control pills have an even higher risk--due to the increase of hypercoagulating factors in their blood.  Both of these factors create endothelial dysfunction.  Both of these factors reduce cerebral blood flow.

We evaluated the risk of thrombosis due to overweight and obesity using data from a large population based case-control study. Four hundred and fifty-four consecutive patients with a first episode of objectively diagnosed thrombosis from three Anticoagulation Clinics in the Netherlands were enrolled in a case-control study. Controls were matched on age and sex to patients and were introduced by the patients. All patients completed a standard questionnaire and interview, with weight and height measured under standard conditions. 
The associations of obesity with clotting factor levels were studied to investigate possible mechanisms. Obesity (BMI >/=30 kg/m(2)) increased the risk of thrombosis twofold (CI95: 1.5 to 3.4), adjusted for age and sex. Obese individuals had higher levels of factor VIII and factor IX, but not of fibrinogen. The effect on risk of obesity was not changed after adjustment for coagulation factors levels (fibrinogen, F VIII, F IX, D-dimer). The relative risk estimates were similar in different age groups and in both sexes, indicating a larger absolute effect in older age groups. 

Evaluation of the combined effect of obesity and oral contraceptive pills among women aged 15-45 revealed that oral contraceptives further increased the effect of obesity on the risk of thrombosis, leading to 10-fold increased risk amongst women with a BMI greater than 25 kg/m(2) who used oral contraceptives. Obesity is a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis. Among women with a BMI greater than 25 kg/m(2) the synergistic effect with oral contraceptives should be considered when prescribing these.

Obesity and birth control pills both affect the blood.  They increase the risk of clots, due to hypercoagulation.   They slow cerebral blood flow and increase white matter abnormalities. This is a vascular connection worth exploring!

There is another well-known condition that is increased in obese women and women on birth control pills.  Idiopathic intracranial hypertension--
This condition occurs when cerebrospinal fluid pressure becomes increased in the brain.  This can cause headaches, visual problems, and tinnitus.  It affects cerebral perfusion, and is related to hyper coagulation.

And some researchers have found connections in patients with both demyelination and IIH-

Three patients with IIH and MS
One patient with MS and IIH
IIH and transverse myelitis
IIH and inflammatory demylinating polyneuropathy

MS researchers need to remove their blinders and consider how cardiovascular health is affecting the brain.  Why does smoking worsen MS and increase progression?  Why does exercise improve MS progression and symptoms?  Why is obesity linked to MS susceptibility?  Why do transfats worsen MS?   All of these environmental factors are linked to endothelial dysfunction.   If researchers continue to focus on the immune system exclusively, they miss an incredible opportunity in understanding the complete aetiology of this disease.  

Surely, if lay people can see this connection--it should be obvious to them.


  1. Okay, so the Lord led me to the answer why smoking makes MS worse. smoking tobacco increases the lysoPC in our bodies and lysoPC causes lesions. Did you read the prednisone study in the Journal of Neuroscience when they were trying to cause lesions in order to see if prednisone heals lesions? They used lysoPC to create the lesions in the mice. I have more about smoking in my blog. I could paste it here, but you may find a lot of my MS information helpful. I am sorry about your husband's MS. http://jesusdiedandlives.wordpress.com I am not trying to drive readers to my blog so I have good stats; I am wrote the blog because I believe the Lord led me to the cause of MS and hope someone can do something with this information to help people suffering in pain and paralysis.

  2. Thanks for the comments and concern. My husband is doing just fine. Seven years with no MS progression, no lesions, no new symptoms. He works full time and is jogging and skiing again. We're very thankful for his healing, and credit his venoplasty, nutrition, lifestyle and other factors--as well as our faith. take care.