The increasing overall incidence of asthma in children over the past 2-3 decades actually parallels the increase in obesity. There is a direct connection between higher body mass index (weight), irritability of the airways and the development of asthma symptoms in children.
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, that analyzed the medical records of over 600,000 children, found that overweight and obese children and teens were more likely to have asthma than those of normal weight. The study also found that obese children and teens that have asthma experience more frequent and more severe episodes of asthma than those within a normal weight range. Obese children and teens with asthma require more emergency room visits and more in the way of asthma medication to control their symptoms. Most importantly, weight reduction in children and teens with asthma leads to a reduction in the need for medication!
There are a few theories as to why there is an obesity-asthma association and it likely is not due to any one factor but a combination of causes. One potential cause for the increase in asthma symptoms in obese children is that the added weight actually can constrict the lungs. Another possibility is that obese children tend to be the ones that are not exercising and playing sports. And we know that exercise leads to better asthma control! Other theories include hormonal influences. Specifically, some researchers think that the hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells and contributes to weight regulation may be involved as it also causes airway inflammation, the hallmark of asthma. So it appears that obesity and asthma have a definite relationship. All of these findings stress the importance of losing weight and exercising to lessen your chance of severe asthma and to maintain good asthma control.
We’ll be updating this section with breaking developments that link asthma and obesity and adding a blog on dietary and food recommendations soon.