WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Dec. 15, 2008 - People with psoriasis may face a higher risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome,
heart disease risk factors thanks to high levels of the so-called fat
A new study suggests that people with the common skin disease have higher
levels of the hormone leptin, which regulates food intake, body weight, and fat
stores and is also thought to play a role in immune and inflammatory processes.
Those elevated leptin levels may in turn make them more likely to become obese
high blood pressure, diabetes, and other heart disease risk factors.
Psoriasis is a disease affecting the immune system that causes red, silvery,
scaly skin. Previous studies have linked the skin disease to obesity, heart
disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (a clustering of health problems
linked to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes), but the mechanism
behind these relationships is unclear.
If further studies confirm these results, researchers say weight loss may
become an important part of
treating psoriasis while reducing the risk of heart disease.
In the study, researchers in Taiwan studied 77 people with psoriasis and 81
individuals of similar age and sex without the skin disease in 2006 and
The results showed that those with psoriasis were more than twice as likely
to be obese or have high blood pressure.
Elevated levels of leptin were also more likely to be found in women, obese
participants, and those with hypertension, metabolic syndrome, or
After taking into account obesity, being female, or already having metabolic
syndrome, they found that having psoriasis was associated with having high
Researchers say the results suggest that the higher levels of leptin found
in people with psoriasis may be at least one contributor to the additional
health risks previously linked to psoriasis.
"The high circulating leptin levels in individuals with psoriasis may derive
not only from fat tissue but also from inflammation," write researcher Yi-Ju
Chen, MD, of Taichung Veterans General Hospital and National Chung Hsing
University in Taiwan, and colleagues in the Archives of Dermatology.
"Body weight loss has been reported to significantly decrease leptin levels
and improve insulin sensitivity and may reduce the likelihood of developing
metabolic syndrome and adverse cardiovascular diseases," they write. "Body
weight loss could potentially become part of the general treatment of
psoriasis, especially in patients with obesity."
Although the results suggest that psoriasis is associated with elevated
leptin levels, researchers say more study is needed to determine if the
inflammatory processes associated with
psoriasis cause increased leptin production, and what effect leptin has on
immune cells and skin cells in psoriasis.
SOURCES:Chen, Y. Archives of Dermatology, December 2008; vol 144: pp
1571-1575.News release, American Medical Association.
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