Are Asthma and Obesity Linked?

The medical community has long recognized that obesity increases the risk of developing asthma. However, new research is complicating the story, suggesting that the opposite may also be true – i.e., that asthma may also increase the risk of becoming obese. According to the new data presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, people who have non-allergic asthma and those who have developed asthma as adults are at the highest risk of becoming obese.

The study, led by Dr. Subhabrata Moitra, included 8,618 people from 12 countries. Recruitment for the study started in the 1990s, and followed participants over 20 years. At the start of the study, these individuals were not obese, meaning that their body mass index, or BMI, was less than 30 kg/m2. Their asthma and BMI was then assessed at 10-year intervals over two decades. Participants were deemed to have asthma if they were taking asthma medication or if they reported having asthma and had had an asthma attack or had been awoken with shortness of breath at some point during the previous year.

Researchers evaluated the correlation between having asthma when the study began and the likelihood of obesity both 10 and 20 years later. They also considered other risk factors for obesity, including age, sex and physical activity. The scientists’ most significant finding was that 10.2 percent of people who had asthma at the start of the study had become obese ten years later, compared to only 7.7 percent of those who did not have asthma. Thus, though all people tended to gain weight and be more likely to become obese as they aged, the risks for obesity were higher among those with asthma than among those without asthma.

The specific link between asthma and obesity is unclear, but there does seem to be a relationship that makes having one of these conditions increase people’s likelihood of developing the other. Future research will aim to clarify the impact of each disease on the other so that we can develop strategies for reducing the risk of obesity in those with asthma and vice versa.

Author
Dr. Summit Shah

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