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20-10-2011 | Article

Obesity may raise risk of eczema


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MedWire News: People who are obese have an increased risk of suffering from an inflammatory skin condition called atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, study findings suggest.

The results raise the possibility that losing weight could help prevent or ameliorate this skin disease, say Dr Jonathan Silverberg (St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Centers, New York, USA) and fellow researchers writing in the British Journal of Dermatology.

It is already known that overweight children are more likely to suffer from allergic skin conditions than their normal-weight counterparts. In this study, Dr Silverberg's team wanted to see if the same was true in adults.

They searched a hospital database to identify patients with allergic skin conditions, such as eczema and atopic dermatitis. These patients were then divided into three groups - normal, overweight, or obese - according to their body mass index.

A total of 2090 patients were included in the study. Using statistical analysis, Dr Silverberg's team found that people who were obese were markedly more likely to be suffering from atopic dermatitis than overweight or normal-weight people.

This association held strong even after taking account of confounding variables, say the researchers.

However, obese people were no more likely to suffer from other types of skin allergy, or indeed from other "atopic" conditions such as hayfever or food allergies. And people who were merely overweight, rather than obese, did not have an increased risk of any allergic disease.

Dr Silverberg and co-workers say their study suggests that "obesity has a specific relationship with atopic dermatitis." Since atopic dermatitis is a multifactorial disease, with many different contributing causes - identifying and eliminating these causes, where feasible, could be important for preventing and managing the condition.

"It is possible that weight loss in adults may prevent or improve atopic dermatitis," the researchers conclude. "Further research aimed at elucidating the temporal relationship between obesity and atopic dermatitis is required."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Joanna Lyford