Childhood obesity not only doubles the risk of developing the condition, but once diagnosed obese children are less likely to respond well to treatment than those of a healthy weight, researchers say.

A study by the Centre for MS in Childhood and Adolescence in Germany examined 453 children with pediatric MS, aged an average of 14.

A body mass index (BMI) measurement was taken from each participant within six months of diagnosis. The findings showed that at diagnosis, just under a third (27.9 per cent) of patients were overweight or obese.

Both girls and boys with a high BMI were found to have a twofold increased risk of developing MS.

Obese children also had significantly more relapses on first-line treatment and a higher rate of second-line treatment, compared with those of an average weight.

Several studies have previously suggested an association between obesity and higher MS risk in adults. This is the largest to link obesity and MS in children, and the first to suggest it could affect their treatment response.

The disease is mainly considered as an adult condition, with most people being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.

However it can it can strike early in life, and the number of children being diagnosed is increasing, with 5-10 per cent of patients experiencing their first symptoms before the age of 16.

The study suggests that encouraging children with MS to achieve a healthy weight could improve treatment outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

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