Obesity Seen As Cause of Restless Leg Syndrome

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Scientists have found another reason we should watch our waist size. New research suggests the cause of restless leg syndrome (RLS) might be a bigger belly, associated with obesity and higher body mass index (BMI).

The study showed that obesity and increased BMI, raises the risk of developing restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome results in an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, especially when trying to fall asleep. The result is decreased quality of life from poor sleep patterns. Scientists have been trying to understand the cause of restless leg syndrome in order to deliver targeted treatment.

The new research suggests the cause of restless leg syndrome might be lower levels of dopamine, associated with increased waist size and obesity. Men and women whose BMI is greater than 30 were found to have 1.5 times the risk of developing restless leg syndrome.

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Study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston says, “These results may be important since obesity is a modifiable risk factor that is becoming increasingly common in the U.S”. Reducing waist size and getting rid of belly fat could eliminate the cause of restless leg syndrome which affects five to ten percent of the population.

The researchers found that decreased waist circumference was directly associated with a lower risk of restless leg syndrome, in a study that included 65,554 women and 23,119 men taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study or the Nurses’ Health Study II.

According to Dr. Gao, people with bigger bellies and increased BMI have lower dopamine levels in the body. Lower dopamine levels from increased waist size or obesity may be the cause of restless leg syndrome.

Reference: AAN

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