Updated 2 months ago

Early-life asthma may contribute to childhood obesity

It is estimated that asthma affects around 1 in 10 U.S. children. As for childhood obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 12.7 million children in the U.S. are obese.

In "Effects of Childhood Asthma on the Development of Obesity among School-Aged Children," researchers report that young children with asthma were 51 percent more likely to become obese over the next decade as children who did not have asthma. The researchers also found that the use of asthma rescue medications reduced the risk of becoming obese by 43 percent.

To probe the relationship between asthma and obesity, Chen and her colleagues analyzed data on 2171 children who enrolled in the Southern California Children's Health Study between the ages of 5 and 8 years and who were not obese at enrollment.

Children in the study were followed for up to 10 years after enrollment. Children were measured and weighed each year to determine their body mass index, and parents or children reported their asthma status.

"Asthma and obesity often occur together in children, but it is unclear whether children with asthma are at higher risk for onset of obesity or whether obese children develop asthma, or both, said Zhanghua Chen, PhD, lead study author and a postdoctoral research associate of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. "Our findings add to the literature that early-life asthma history may lead to increased risk of childhood obesity."

One limitation of the study is that parents and or children reported asthma status and could have misreported the diagnosis. The study also collected only limited information on physical activity and no information on diet.

The authors suggest that future studies that directly measure body fat and its distribution are needed to confirm the findings.

The authors conclude that the study emphasizes the importance of initiating asthma treatment as soon as possible.

"Early diagnosis and treatment of asthma may avoid the vicious cycle of asthma increasing the development of obesity with obesity subsequently causing increased asthma symptoms and morbidity leading to further weight gain," Dr Chen and her colleagues wrote.

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