The incidence of asthma increases by 50 percent in overweight and obese individuals compared to those of normal weight, according to a new meta-study based on more than 300,000 patients.
Writing in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the researchers suggest that asthma incidence could by reduced by targeted interventions against being overweight or obese. "Although asthma is less prevalent than obesity, it affects approximately 7 percent of the adult population in the United States," said researcher Dr. E. Rand Sutherland.
Dr. Sutherland noted that obesity in the absence of asthma causes impairments in lung function, including reduction in lung volume and chest wall restriction. These difficulties can result in breathlessness and wheezing, which might be mistaken for asthma by patients and doctors. "Weight loss studies have shown improvements in lung function and asthma symptoms, but not necessarily in airflow obstruction," said Dr. Sutherland. "It is also reasonable to believe that some of the patients with 'asthma' may have respiratory symptoms due to obesity but may not meet rigorous objective physiologic criteria for asthma."
Estimates in the research show that if significant weight loss could be achieved in the population of overweight and obese individuals, the number of new asthma cases in the United States adults might fall by as much as 250,000 per year. "If that decrease can be extrapolated to the pediatric population, where the annual incidence of asthma is as much as five times higher, the effect of even small changes in mean population body mass index may translate into significant decreases in asthma incidence in children and adults," said Dr. Sutherland.
Obesity is a well-established risk factor for diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and other illnesses. The new findings support the addition of asthma to that list.
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Source: American Thoracic Society