Parents can reduce the likelihood of their children developing asthma by preventing them from becoming overweight. According to research published in the journal Pediatrics, overweight children are at greater risk for developing asthma than normal weight children.
Swedish scientists designed a birth cohort study involving 2075 infants in order to analyze the relationship between high body mass index (BMI), changes to BMI and children's sensitization to asthma and allergies.
The children were followed for 8 years, wherein parents provided information on their children's health outcomes and exposure to environmental elements. Data on children's height and weight were obtained from school and preschool health care records. At 8 years of age, the analysis included information on the cohort's height, weight and asthma.
Normal Weight Children Are Less Likely To Develop Asthma Than Overweight Children
Scientists measured children's BMI at age 4 and again at age 7. They learned that children with high BMI at 4 years of age and 7 years of age were at great risk of developing asthma by the time they reached 8 years of age. Children who were overweight at age 7 were also more sensitive to inhalant allergens than normal weight children.
However, children who were normal weight by age 7 were less likely to develop asthma or allergic sensitivities. In other words, overweight or obese children who achieved normal weight by 7 years of age reduced their chances of developing asthma.
How Does Obesity Affect Asthma?
One theory about the relationship between asthma and obesity centers around a fat-derived hormone called leptin. This hormone is produced by white fat cells and regulates the inflammatory immune response.
Lead researcher Jessica Magnusson cited evidence from another experiment performed by other researchers which found elevated hormone levels in obese children and obese children with asthma.
Inflammation is a symptom shared by obesity and asthma.
Based on the evidence of the Swedish birth cohort study, Magnusson wrote: "Our study indicates that high BMI during the first 4 years does not increase the risk of asthma at school age among children who have developed a normal weight by age 7 years."
The bottom line: parents can keep their children healthy and reduce their chances of developing asthma by helping them maintain normal weight.
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Magnusson, J., Kull, I., Mai, X., Wickman, M., & Bergstrom, A. (2011). Early Childhood Overweight and Asthma and Allergic Sensitization at 8 Years of Age PEDIATRICS, 129 (1), 70-76 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-2953
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