Children with asthma at higher obesity risk later in adolescence: study

Children with asthma at higher obesity risk later in adolescence study
Children with asthma at higher obesity risk later in adolescence study

According to new research published online this week, Children with asthma may be at higher obesity risk later in childhood or in adolescence.

Researchers from the University of Southern California found that young children with asthma were 51 percent more likely to become obese over the next 10 years than children who did not have asthma.


However, the good news is that the use of asthma rescue medications reduced the risk of becoming obese by 43 percent.

“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, lead author and a postdoctoral research associate of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California.

“Our findings add to the literature that early-life asthma history may lead to increased risk of childhood obesity,” Chen said.

Chen and her colleagues looked at 2,171 kindergarteners and first graders who were not obese at the time they were enrolled for the study.

At enrollment, 13.5 percent of the children had asthma.

During a follow-up of up to 10 years, 15.8 percent of all these children developed obesity.

Researchers confirmed study results in a different group of children, who were recruited in the fourth grade and followed until high school graduation.

They found several risk factors for obesity are more prevalent among children with asthma, including reduced physical activity and potential adverse effects from asthma medications.

The results also showed that the use of rescue asthma medications appeared to reduce the risk of developing obesity.

The researchers called the fact that rescue, but not controller, asthma medications reduced obesity “a surprise” and said it warranted further study.

Overall, the study reinforced the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of asthma, which “may avoid the vicious cycle of asthma increasing the development of obesity with obesity subsequently causing increased asthma symptoms and morbidity leading to further weight gain,” they wrote.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health. People are generally considered obese when their body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person’s weight by the square of the person’s height, is over 30 kg/m2, with the range 25–30 kg/m2 defined as overweight. Some East Asian countries use lower values. Obesity increases the likelihood of various diseases, particularly heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

Three silhouettes depicting the outlines of an optimally sized (left), overweight (middle), and obese person (right).

Obesity is most commonly caused by a combination of excessive food intake, lack of physical activity, and genetic susceptibility. A few cases are caused primarily by genes, endocrine disorders, medications, or mental illness. The view that obese people eat little yet gain weight due to a slow metabolism is not generally supported. On average, obese people have a greater energy expenditure than their thin counterparts due to the energy required to maintain an increased body mass.

Obesity is mostly preventable through a combination of social changes and personal choices. Changes to diet and exercising are the main treatments. Diet quality can be improved by reducing the consumption of energy-dense foods, such as those high in fat and sugars, and by increasing the intake of dietary fiberMedications may be taken, along with a suitable diet, to reduce appetite or decrease fat absorption. If diet, exercise, and medication are not effective, a gastric balloon or surgery may be performed to reduce stomach volume or bowel length, leading to feeling full earlier or a reduced ability to absorb nutrients from food.

Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing rates in adults and children. In 2014, 600 million adults (13%) and 42 million children under the age of five were obese. Obesity is more common in women than men. Authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. Obesity is stigmatized in much of the modern world (particularly in the Western world), though it was seen as a symbol of wealth and fertility at other times in history and still is in some parts of the world. In 2013, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease.