Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that affects over 7 million Americans, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. The first episode of psoriasis commonly occurs to those between the ages of 15 to 35, with almost one-third developing psoriasis while still under the age of 20. Almost 20,000 children under the age of 10 are thought to have psoriasis.
A study by Kaiser Permanente was published in the online Journal of Pediatrics April 2011 issue. Researchers reviewed the health records of 710,949 ethnically diverse youths aging from two to 19 years old. The children’s severity of psoriasis was compared against their body weight, which ranged from being underweight to extremely obese.
Psoriasis was found to more likely occur in 40 percent of the children who were obese compared to those of normal weight. According to an article by ScienceDaily, "Extremely obese children were almost 80% more likely to have psoriasis than were normal-weight-children."
The researchers also measured cholesterol levels in the children and found that regardless of weight, teens with psoriasis had cholesterol levels that were four to 16 percent higher than those without psoriasis.
What the Kaiser study does identify is that there is a link between psoriasis and obesity. However, it does not indicate that obesity causes psoriasis, or vice versa. Studies have not determined if obesity or psoriasis cause one another, or if other triggers are at play. Therefore, no conclusion about the relationship should be mistakenly drawn. The connection between psoriasis and heart disease is thought to be related due to both conditions having low levels of inflammation.
What is important is that the results of the Kaiser study bring up concerns about the health of our children and their future risk of cardiovascular disease. Children who are overweight and have psoriasis are likely to become adults who are overweight with psoriasis, but even teens of normal weight with psoriasis are still in danger if they have elevated cholesterol levels.