A new study published in the Aug. 6 online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that overweight and obese children are more likely to develop asthma than their normal-weight peers. In addition, they are more likely to suffer more severe asthma attacks.
In the study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by Kaiser Permanente, researchers analyzed the electronic records of 623,358 children, classifying them as normal weight, overweight, moderately obese, or extremely obese based on their height and weight.
According to an Aug.7 Kaiser Permanente news release, study results showed that:
- Overweight children were 1.16 times more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than normal-weight kids.
- Moderately obese kids were 1.23 times more likely to develop asthma.
- Extremely obese children were 1.37 times more likely to develop the condition.
- Girls ages 6 to 10 who were moderately or extremely obese had a 1.36 and 1.56 times higher risk of asthma than normal-weight girls.
- Moderately and extremely obese Asian-Pacific Islander children had a 1.41 and 1.67 times higher risk of developing asthma.
- Among the children who did develop asthma, moderately and extremely obese kids were more likely to have more regular and aggressive attacks that resulted in emergency room visits and/or treatment with inhalers than their normal-weight peers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the U.S., and along with obesity, is growing in prevalence.
Inflammation caused by body fat is suspected to be one factor in the kids’ increased risk of asthma, study lead author, Mary Helen Black, PhD, of the department of research and evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, told HealthDay News.
The extra pounds may also affect the severity of asthma by placing additional weight on a child’s chest and constricting breathing, explained Black.
For Black and her colleagues, the study is a red flag for health care professionals to be on alert for signs of asthma in overweight kids.
“As a result of this research, we know that children who are overweight or obese – particularly young girls and Asian-Pacific Islander children – are more likely to develop asthma,” said Black in the news release.
“With this knowledge, we can work to develop programs to prevent asthma in high-risk groups. Physicians might also monitor obese children with asthma more closely, since these children tend to have a more severe type of asthma,” Black added.
Learn more about asthma.