Weight status and disability in multiple sclerosis: An examination of bi-directional associations over a 24-month period

Lara A. Pilutti, Edward McAuley, Robert W. Motl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Natural history studies have typically focused on non-modifiable factors as predictors of disability progression in multiple sclerosis (MS). Weight status has emerged as a correlate of disability status in cross-sectional studies of persons with MS and represents a possible modifiable predictor of disability progression over time. Objective: This study examined the prospective, bi-directional associations between body mass index (BMI) and disability over a 24-month time course in persons with MS who have mild-to-moderate disability. Methods: The sample included 269 individuals with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) that were part of an ongoing, longitudinal investigation of symptoms and physical activity in persons with RRMS. BMI and PDDS were determined by self-report questionnaires distributed and collected through the U.S. postal service. Data were collected from participants on three occasions: baseline, 12 months, and 24 months. Results: Mean BMI at baseline was 27.2 (7.0) kg/m 2 and over 50% of participants were classified as overweight (BMI=25.0-29.9 kg/m 2) or obese (BMI≥30.0 kg/m 2). There was a significant increase in PDDS over the study period (p<0.0001), but no change in BMI (p=0.41). There were no significant correlations between BMI and PDDS for any of the three time points (p>0.05). Path analysis indicated a minimal and inconsistent impact of BMI on the change in PDDS over time, and PDDS had a minimal and inconsistent influence on change in BMI. Conclusions: Over a 24-month time course, we demonstrated an increase in disability, but minimal evidence that this change was predicted by BMI in persons with mild-to-moderate MS. Even though BMI was not predictive of disability, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was considerable and should be the focus of subsequent intervention in MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-144
Number of pages6
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Body mass index
  • Disability progression
  • Longitudinal
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Panel model
  • Weight status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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