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Being overweight increases risk of asthma in children

Thursday August 8, 2013
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Overweight and obese children are more likely to develop asthma, and they experience more frequent and severe episodes of asthma than their normal-weight peers, according to a study.

The relationship between obesity and asthma is strongest in girls ages 6 to 10 and in Asian-Pacific Islander children, reported researchers with Kaiser Permanente.

For the study, published Aug. 6 on the website of the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers examined the electronic health records of 623,358 children, classifying them as normal weight, overweight, moderately obese, or extremely obese based on measured height and weight.

Over the course of a year, the overweight children were 1.16 times more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than normal-weight youth. Moderately obese and extremely obese children were 1.23 and 1.37 times more likely to develop the condition.

Among the children who developed asthma, moderately and extremely obese children were more likely than normal-weight children to experience more regular and aggressive exacerbations that resulted in ED visits and/or treatment with oral corticosteroids.

The effects of body weight on asthma incidence also varied by race/ethnicity, age and sex. Moderately obese and extremely obese Asian-Pacific Islander children were 1.41 and 1.67 times more likely to develop asthma than were their normal-weight peers. Moderately obese and extremely obese girls ages 6 to 10 were 1.36 and 1.56 times more likely than normal-weight girls of the same age.

"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," Mary Helen Black, PhD, of the Department of Research and Evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, said in a 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."

Although asthma is the most common, chronic childhood disease in the United States and prevalence has more than doubled in the past 30 years, its relationship to obesity is poorly understood, the researchers said, noting that U.S. researchers have not conducted many large-scale studies examining the relationship between body weight or body mass index and asthma risk.

Study abstract: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/25/aje.kwt093.abstract.


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