In a recent study, scientists have found that asthma could give rise to the childhood obesity epidemic.
The University of Southern California study showed that beyond wheezing and shortness of breath, asthma can lead to bodies that make young people more susceptible to other health problems later in life.
Senior author Lida Chatzi said asthma and obesity pack a one-two punch against children's health, which raises concerns about a public health crisis due to their prevalence.
"Asthma is a chronic childhood disorder and if it increases the risk of obesity, we can advise parents and physicians on how to treat it and intervene to help young children grow up to enjoy healthy, adult lives," Chatzi said.
For two decades, scientists have documented the parallel epidemics of childhood asthma and obesity, with a focus on how obesity is a risk factor for asthma. In adults, obesity is an important risk factor for new asthma, especially among women, but the relationships appear to differ in children. Few studies look at the problem the other way around to understand how asthma contributes to obesity in kids, which prompted scientists to undertake this research.
On average, the scientists found that children diagnosed with asthma had a 66 per cent higher risk of becoming obese than those without an asthma diagnosis. For children with persistent wheezing symptoms, their risk of developing obesity was 50 per cent greater compared to children without such symptoms. Children with active asthma were nearly twice as likely to develop obesity than those without asthma and wheezing, according to the study.
The causal direction between asthma and obesity is not well understood. Asthma is regarded as a barrier to children's physical activity that might lead to accumulation of fat in the body, while higher doses of inhaled corticosteroids had been hypothesized to increase the risk of obesity in children with asthma. According to the study, children with asthma who used medication had the strongest risk of developing obesity. The study appears in the European Respiratory Journal.