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Children With Asthma are More Likely to Become Obese

Children With Asthma are More Likely to Become Obese

Written by Amrita Surendranath, B.Sc, M.Sc.
Medically Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on January 20, 2017 at 7:30 PM
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  • Asthma during childhood may increase the chances of obesity later in adolescence.
  • Restricted physical activity in children with asthma due to respiration difficulties may increase the chances of obesity.
  • Asthma inhalers may help prevent obesity in children irrespective of physical activity.

Children with asthma may become obese later in childhood or adolescence, according to new research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Earlier studies have found a link between asthma and increased risk of developing obesity by following children over a decade, the study stated. But it is not certain that all children who have asthma are obese or will become obese.

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Children With Asthma are More Likely to Become Obese

Asthma in early childhood increases the chances of obesity by 51% compared to kids who don't have asthma. The risk was observed for a span of 10 years, i.e, the child may become obese in childhood or in adolescence.

Zhanghua Chen, lead author of the study and a research associate of environmental health at the Keck School of Medicine said, "Children who have asthma are often overweight or obese, but the scientific literature has not been able to say asthma causes obesity."

"Our findings add to the literature that early-life asthma history may lead to increased risk of childhood obesity."

The word 'asthma' is derived from a Greek word meaning breathlessness or panting, both of which accurately describe an attack of asthma.

Asthma is a condition that affects airways and the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. Childhood asthma is not a different disease than asthma in adults but children find it difficult to tackle the symptoms that interfere with their daily activities.

In children with asthma, airways are swollen and inflamed. When these inflamed airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, symptoms of asthma appear.

About the study

For the study, Dr. Chen and her colleagues analyzed the records of 2,171 kindergarten kids and first graders who were not obese at the time of enrollment in the Southern California Children's Health Study (CHS).

At enrollment, 13.5% of the children had asthma. The children were followed for a maximum of 10 years with an average of 6.9 years. Within that period, 15.8% of children developed obesity. Researchers confirmed study results in a different group of children, recruited in the 4th grade to participate in the CHS.

Details regarding health insurance, ethnicity, family income, smoking exposure at home and physical activity were collected to reduce bias.

The use of asthma medications during an attack reduced the development of obesity though the confounding factors do not explain the actual finding.

Vicious Cycle of Asthma & Obesity

"Asthma and obesity often occur together in children, but it is unclear whether children with asthma are at higher risk for onset of obesity or whether obese children develop asthma, or both, said Zhanghua Chen, PhD, lead study author, Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Various studies have pointed out that childhood obesity causes asthma though the mechanism behind it remains unclear. Studies conducted among adults suggest that obesity may lead to reduced lung volumes and greater airway responsiveness, inducing asthma.

In children with asthma, obesity may be more prevalent because respiratory problems may cause this population to play and exercise less, though the study accounted for physical activity. Another possibility is that, a side effect of many asthma medications is weight gain.

Another interesting finding was that children who used asthma inhalers when they had an attack were 43 percent less likely to become obese.

Irrespective of the type of physical activity the children were involved in, there was a correlation between the protective effect of inhalers on obesity. Further study is required to confirm the observation.

"Elevated asthma and obesity may contribute to the development of other metabolic diseases, including prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes in later life," said, Frank Gilliland, senior author of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

"Early diagnosis and treatment of asthma may help prevent the childhood obesity epidemic," said Gilliland.

The study had some limitations including, data collected was self-reported and details on the dietary pattern of the children were not taken into account.

  1. Children with asthma are more likely to become obese, USC study finds - (https://www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2017-01/uosc-cwa011717.php)
  2. Jason E. Lang, Obesity, Nutrition and Asthma in Children, Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology (2012), doi: 10.1089/ped.2011.0137.
  3. Frank D. Gilliland et al.,Obesity and the Risk of Newly Diagnosed Asthma in School-age Children, American Journal of Epidemiology (2003), https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwg175.

Source: Medindia

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