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Obesity Increases Asthma Risk In Children and Teens



Overweight and obese children are at greater risk for becoming asthmatic, new research suggests. According to a study published in the journal Obesity, asthma is very prevalent among children and adolescents with high BMI resulting in frequent hospitalizations and use of inhaled corticosteroids. This new finding underscores the need for increased medical interventions to develop improved treatment methods for these disorders. 

Mary Helen Black, from Kaiser Permanente of Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation, and her colleagues, studied the relationship between asthma and childhood obesity in order to learn if the link between the disorders varied by race and ethnicity.

To find the answer, Black and her team electronically extracted weight, height and asthma data from the medical records of 681,122 patients aged 6 - 19 years who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) Children's Health Study between 2007 - 2009.

Results of the cohort study revealed that asthma was prevalent in 74,057 of the Study participants, with black youth being nearly twice as likely to have asthma compared to non white Hispanics of the same age.

They also learned that extremely obese American Indian/Native Alaskans were 3.65 times more likely to have asthma than normal weight youth.

Moreover, among white youth, the odds of current asthma became greater with increasing body weight; the chances for asthma among the extremely obese was observed 1.93 times as likely as that for their normal weight counterparts.

With respect to likelihood of asthma with increasing BMI among Asian Pacific Islander participants, researchers said the results were roughly similar to that  observed for non Hispanic white youths.

However, after Black and her colleagues adjusted for race/ethnicity and other demographic variables, it became clear that higher BMI was associated with increased chances for current asthma. In other words, obesity and asthma appear to be linked.


The Relationship Between Asthma and Obesity

Treatment with corticosteroids was common among children and adolescents who were overweight, obese and extremely obese. In fact, after adjusting for race and other factors, extremely obese participants were 18% more likely to have received oral corticosteroid treatment, alone or in combinations with other medications compared to their normal weight counterparts.

They also found that extremely obese youth were 9% to receive inhaled corticosteroids alone or in combination with other meds than normal weight youth.

The problems don't stop there. Researchers noted that obese asthmatics were hospitalized more frequently than normal weight youth.

According to the report, during the first year of enrollment in the KPSC Children's Health Study, extremely obese youth with asthma

  • had a higher frequency of asthma related ambulatory care visits than normal weight youth (2,649 visits per 1000 compared to 2,359 per 1000 youth respectively)
  • experienced more asthma-specific emergency room visits than normal weight youth (200 visits per 1000 youth versus 165 visits per 1000 youth respectively)
  • after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, gender and other factors, extremely obese children and adolescents were expected to make significantly more ambulatory and emergency room asthma-related and asthma-specific visits per 1000 youth than normal weight children and adolescents in a 1-year period

Asthma is a very serious problem for children and adolescents with very high body fat. The Children's Health Study revealed that the frequency of asthma was highest among overweight (37%) and extremely obese youth (68%) compared to normal weight children and teens.

We are quite familiar with obesity being associated with diabetes, cancer and heart disease but few people truly appreciate the seriousness of the disorder's effect on respiratory health.

Overweight and obese children are more prone to hospital visits and take more asthma medications than children who are less heavy.

Looking at it straight on, it becomes glaringly obvious that excess body fat exacerbates this respiratory condition. In fact, Black and colleagues say:"...these findings may imply that obese youth are more symptomatic and/or have more severe asthma than normal weight youth with asthma."

Moreover, they assert that "Obesity, especially extreme obesity, may influence the prevalence of asthma in Asian/Pacific Islander and non-Hispanic white youth to a larger extent than in black or Hispanic youth."

The results of the KPSC Children's Health Study echo those of a similar study which we posted about in December 2011.

In that article, Swedish scientists discovered that children with high BMI were at great risk for developing asthma. The conclusion of that report was that reduction in body weight could lower the chances for developing the respiratory disease.

Although Mary Black's team doesn't specifically discuss methods to reduce obesity among children and teens, they did conclude that medical interventions targeting high risk populations are necessary to curtail hospital visits for children with asthma.

If you wanted to reduce your child's chances of developing asthma, where would you start?


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Article Source 

Black, M., Smith, N., Porter, A., Jacobsen, S., & Koebnick, C. (2012). Higher Prevalence of Obesity Among Children With Asthma Obesity, 20 (5), 1041-1047 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2012.5

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