obesity and asthma

Researchers recently studied the relationship between childhood obesity and asthma, and whether early-onset asthma affects the risk of developing obesity.

As per the reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40% of Americans are obese. Obesity is the leading cause of other diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure, and stroke. According to CDC, the number of people suffering from asthma in the U.S. is increasing every year. About one in 12 Americans suffer from this illness. In Europe, every one in eight people dies to due to lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The relationship between asthma and obesity is not completely understood. Asthma acts as a barrier to physical activity in children, leading to the accumulation of fat in their body. High doses of inhaled corticosteroids are also considered another cause of the increase in the risk of obesity in children with asthma.

The relationship between obesity and asthma in children is important because around  6.5 million children are affected by asthma. In a recent study published in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers across Europe determined the relationship between childhood obesity and asthma, and whether early-onset asthma affects the risk of developing obesity.

The study was conducted on 21,130 children born between 1990 and 2008 across Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The researchers followed non-obese children who were three to four years of age for incident obesity up to eight years of age. Physician-diagnosed asthma, wheezing and allergic rhinitis was assessed up to three to four years of age.

They found that children diagnosed with asthma had a 66% higher chance of becoming obese as compared to those without an asthma diagnosis. In the case of children with wheezing symptoms, it was observed that their chances of becoming obese were 50% more than children without such symptoms. Children with active asthma had two times more likelihood of developing obesity as compared to those without asthma and wheezing.

This study was consistent with other smaller longitudinal studies conducted in the US that evaluated the relationship between asthma and obesity. The authors concluded that early-onset asthma and wheezing symptoms may increase the risk of obesity in later childhood.

Written by Pratibha Duggal


  1. Contreras, Zuelma A., et al. “Does early onset asthma increase childhood obesity risk? A pooled analysis of 16 European cohorts.” European Respiratory Journal 52.3 (2018): 1800504.
  2. Asthma may contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/uosc-amc100418.php
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