Dr Alberto Ascherio Addresses Environmental Risk Factors for MS

November 11, 2019

Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPh, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, explains that, in addition to known environmental factors that affect multiple sclerosis (MS) risk, novel factors, such as childhood obesity, are also emerging.

Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPh, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, explains that, in addition to known environmental factors that affect multiple sclerosis (MS) risk, novel factors, such as childhood obesity, are also emerging.

Transcript

What role does the environment play in the risk of developing MS?

Well, I interpret environment in a broad sense, meaning any factor that is not genetic. So I think we know with fair confidence that MS complication of infection with the Epstein—Barr virus, and the facts that modulate the risk include age at infection with the virus, the vitamin D level (this seems to be important and determining the risk), and exposure to cigarette smoking, that tends to increase risk. In addition, there are some novel factors that are emerging obesity, obesity in childhood. seem to be a risk factor for developing MS, and possibly intake of alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega 3 fatty acid from vegetables, could be associated with a lower risk.