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Association of Atopic Dermatitis with Overweight and Obesity – Another Reason to Eat Healthy


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects the skin. It is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another. The word “dermatitis“ means inflammation of the skin. “Atopic“ refers to a group of diseases in which there is often an inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. In AD, the skin becomes extremely itchy. Scratching leads to redness, swelling, cracking, “weeping“ clear fluid, and finally, crusting and scaling. In most cases, there are periods of time when the disease is worse (called exacerbations or flares) followed by periods when the skin improves or clears up entirely (called remissions). As some children with ADs grow older, their skin disease improves or disappears altogether, although their skin often remains dry and easily irritated. In others, AD continues to be a significant problem in adulthood.


AD is often referred to as “eczema,“ which is a general term for the several types of inflammation of the skin. AD is the most common of the many types of eczema. Below is a picture found on the website of the AAD.



Atopic dermatitis: Infants often get atopic dermatitis on their cheeks, as did this 7-month-old boy.


Previous studies found conflicting results about whether AD is associated with overweight/obesity. As a result, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2015;72:606-616) was performed to examine the relationship between AD and overweight/obesity by performing a systematic review and meta-analysis. For the study, observational studies of the relationship between AD and overweight/obesity were selected from PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library. The quality of evidence was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Fixed and random effects meta-analyses were performed to estimate pooled odds ratios (ORs). Sensitivity analyses were performed that compared results by location of study, study quality, and between studies in children and adults.


A total of 30 studies were included for review. Patients who were overweight (OR, 1.27), obese (OR, 1.68), or overweight/obese (OR, 1.42), all had higher odds of AD than normal weight patients. In sensitivity analyses, children who were overweight, obese, or overweight/obese and adults who were obese or overweight/obese had higher odds of AD. The association remained significant in North America and Asia but not Europe. The authors concluded that in spite that the most studies were cross-sectional in nature, it could be concluded that overweight/obesity in North America and Asia is associated with an increased prevalence of AD.



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