Objective: To investigate the relationship between zonulin levels and clinical and laboratory parameters of childhood obesity. Methods: The study included obese children with a body mass index (BMI) >95th percentile and healthy children who were of similar age and gender distribution. Clinical (BMI, waist circumferences, mid-arm circumference, triceps skinfold, percentage of body fat, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure) and biochemical (glucose, insulin, lipid levels, thyroid function tests, cortisol, zonulin and leptin levels) parameters were measured. Results: A total of 43 obese subjects (23 males, mean age: 11.1±3.1 years) and 37 healthy subjects (18 males, mean age: 11.5±3.5 years) were included in this study. Obese children had significantly higher insulin, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance, triglyceride, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), zonulin and leptin levels than healthy children (p0.05). Comparison of the obese children with and without insulin resistance showed no statistically significant differences for zonulin levels (p>0.05). Zonulin levels were found to negatively correlate with HDL-C and positively correlate with leptin levels, after adjusting for age and BMI. Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study investigating the relationship between circulating zonulin level (as a marker of intestinal permeability) and insulin resistance and leptin (as markers of metabolic disturbances associated with obesity) in childhood obesity. The results showed that zonulin was significantly higher in obese children when compared to healthy children, a finding indicating a potential role of zonulin in the etiopathogenesis of obesity and related disturbances.
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