The prevalence of overweight and obesity in veterans with multiple sclerosis.

OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence and factors associated with overweight and obesity in veterans with multiple sclerosis (MS) enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration (VA) and to compare the prevalence in this group with gender-specific published rates for the general population of veterans receiving outpatient care at VA medical facilities.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional cohort study linking electronic medical record information to mailed survey from 1999 to 2004. A total of 4703 veterans with MS enrolled in VA who returned questionnaires as part of two cross-sectional studies. Main outcome measures included body mass index, demographic information, Veteran RAND 36-item Health Survey, frequency of physical exercise, and other health conditions.

RESULTS: Overall, 28% of female and 42.8% of male veterans with MS were overweight. Another 25% of women and 21.2% of male veterans met the criteria for obesity. Compared with a historical cohort of veterans enrolled in the VA, veterans with MS had a slightly higher adjusted prevalence of overweight than did veterans in general (42.3% vs. 39.6%, respectively) but a lower adjusted prevalence of obesity (20.1% vs. 33.1%). In adjusted logistic regression, age, smoking, and lower levels of pain were associated with a lower likelihood of overweight or obesity. Being male, married, employed and having arthritis and diabetes were associated with a greater likelihood of overweight or obesity.

CONCLUSIONS: Overweight and obesity are a problem for more than 60% of veterans with MS in the VA. Screening for overweight and obesity should be done routinely. Interventions to prevent and manage excessive weight in individuals with MS should be developed and evaluated.