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Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2018 Mar 10;18(4):18. doi: 10.1007/s11910-018-0827-5.

Insights into the Mechanisms That May Clarify Obesity as a Risk Factor for Multiple Sclerosis.

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Faculty of medicine, VU University, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences, Neuroscience Amsterdam, VUmc MS Center Amsterdam, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1108, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, Netherlands.



The proportion to which genetic and environmental factors contribute to the etiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) is still incompletely understood. An interesting association between MS etiology and obesity has recently been shown although the mechanisms underlying this association are still unknown. We propose deregulated gut microbiota and increased leptin levels as possible mechanisms underlying MS etiology in obese individuals.


Alterations in the human gut microbiota and leptin levels have recently been established as immune modulators in both MS patients and obese individuals. A resemblance between pro-inflammatory bacterial profiles in MS and obese individuals was observed. Furthermore, elevated leptin levels push the immune system towards a more pro-inflammatory state and inhibit the regulatory immune response. Deregulated gut microbiota and elevated leptin levels may explain the increased risk of developing MS in obese individuals. Further research to confirm causality is warranted.


Body mass index; Gut microbiota; Immune system; Leptin; Multiple sclerosis; Obesity

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