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Study Sees Link Between Psoriasis, Obesity in Kids

FRIDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of psoriasis -- a chronic, inflammatory disease of the skin -- is significantly higher among overweight and obese kids, researchers have found.

The Kaiser Permanente study, published online in the Journal of Pediatrics, also found that teens with psoriasis (regardless of their body weight) have higher cholesterol levels, putting them at greater risk for heart disease.

"This study suggests a link between obesity and psoriasis in children," the study's lead author Corinna Koebnick, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation, said in a Kaiser Permanente news release.

"But our study findings also suggest that the higher heart disease risk for patients with psoriasis starts in childhood in the form of higher cholesterol levels. We may need to monitor youth with psoriasis more closely for cardiovascular risk factors, especially if they are obese," Koebnick added.

Using electronic health records to study 710,949 racially and ethnically diverse children, the investigators found obese children were almost 40 percent more likely to have psoriasis than normal weight children. At even greater risk, extremely obese children were nearly 80 percent more likely to have psoriasis than normal weight children. Moreover, it was four times more likely for psoriasis to be severe or more widespread in obese youth than in normal weight children.

The study also revealed that, compared with kids without psoriasis, teens with the skin condition had 4 to 16 percent higher cholesterol levels and liver enzymes, regardless of their weight.

Psoriasis, often viewed merely as a burdensome skin condition, may put children at risk for metabolic disease (such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease), as seen in adults, the study authors pointed out.

"It has been well described that adults with psoriasis have increased cardiovascular risk factors, but we have now examined these issues in children," the study's senior author, Dr. Jashin J. Wu, director of clinical research and the associate residency program, and director for the department of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, said in the news release.

"As we follow these patients over 30 to 40 years, we will be able to determine if these increased cardiovascular risk factors in turn increase the risk for major adverse cardiac events," said Wu.

The researchers acknowledged that the study had limitations due to its cross-sectional design, where both body weight and information on psoriasis were assessed at the same time, and stated that these issues would be addressed in future studies.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides details on childhood obesity.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, May 18, 2011

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