Plump young girls couldn't have it worse. New research links them to three times the chance of developing adult-onset asthma.
Claiming to be the world's first such research, scientists from Melbourne University of Australia say that overweight girls triple their risk of developing asthma at adulthood.
The findings published in the European Respiratory Journal are based on the survey of 1500 people who were analyzed for their body mass index (BMI). The BMI of girls measured when they were seven years old were compared with their lung function 25 years later.
The results showed that girls who did not have childhood asthma and who were in the top 25 per cent for BMI, were over three times more likely to develop the respiratory condition later, as against similar girls in the lowest 25 BMI range.
It was observed that the increased risk remained the same after taking into account other factors such as childhood allergies, the degree of lung development at the age of seven and smoking later in life.
It is acknowledged by previous research that genetics, weight, exposure to allergies and other environmental factors are linked to asthma risk.
Says Dr. John Burgess; from the school of population health who led the study:"It shows that the known increased risk of asthma in obese women could have actually started when they were children. It adds to a growing body of evidence detailing the harmful long-term effects of excess weight in childhood."
Burgess also said that as childhood obesity data from this study was taken almost 40 years ago, there would now be many more children at risk of developing adult on-set asthma.
"The prevalence and extent of obesity among young girls has grown significantly since 1968," he said.
"This means that there are now many more young girls who are overweight and could be a high risk of developing asthma in future", he warned.
A surprising find was that the same disease link was not found in boys, making the researchers suspicious that female-specific hormones could be to blame for the connection.
Estrogen, essential for normal female sexual development, is also known to affect the immune system and the lungs.
"Heavier girls tend to reach puberty earlier than girls of normal weight," Dr Burgess said.
"It's postulated then that the effects of exposure to estrogens at a younger age possibly `programs' the lungs to develop asthma later on, but that purely a hypothesis at this stage", he was quoted.