Since the 1970s, researchers have known that lupus patients are at risk for hardening of the arteries (“atherosclerosis”). Some of this risk may be from the increased inflammation that lupus patients have in the bloodstream over many years, but some of it is from the same reasons that hold true for everybody: especially high blood pressure, high blood glucose (sugar), or low levels of “good cholesterol.”
Taken together, these risk factors are known as “metabolic syndrome,” a condition that puts people at high risk for heart disease, diabetes, or both. Some of the medications that lupus patients may take can increase the likelihood that a person will develop metabolic syndrome, especially prednisone.
Cells in the body release specialized chemicals called “cytokines,” molecules that carry messages between nearby cells, and some of these messages work specifically to influence body weight and how fast food is burned or whether it turns into fat. If the cytokine messengers are sent out by fat cells, they are called “adipokines.” The names of some of these adipokines (fat cell messengers) are leptin, adiponectin, and ghrelin.
The researchers wanted to find out whether the amount of leptin, adiponectin, or ghrelin in children with lupus might be different than in children without lupus.