Children with asthma are at increased risk for childhood obesity, a new study suggests.
Obesity is widely regarded as a risk factor for asthma, but these new findings suggest the reverse is true, too, according to the researchers.
The study authors analyzed data from more than 21,000 children in nine European countries who were diagnosed with asthma at ages 3 to 4 years old and followed up to age 8.
Compared to toddlers without asthma, those with asthma were 66 percent more likely to become obese, and the risk was 50 percent higher among those with persistent wheezing.
Children with active asthma were nearly twice as likely to become obese than those without asthma and wheezing, according to the study.
“Asthma may contribute to the obesity epidemic. We urgently need to know if prevention and adequate treatment of asthma can reduce the trajectory toward obesity,” study co-author Frank Gilliland, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, said in a university news release.
One way that asthma may contribute to obesity is by limiting children’s physical activity, the researchers said.
It’s also been suggested that higher doses of inhaled corticosteroids used to treat asthma may increase the risk of obesity. In this study, children with asthma who used medication had the greatest risk of becoming obese.
“We care about this issue because asthma affects approximately 6.5 million children — about 1 in 10 — in the United States,” said study senior author Lida Chatzi, also a professor of preventive medicine at USC.
“It’s 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.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 40 percent of Americans — or 93 million people — are obese. Obesity is linked to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans with asthma in the United States is growing every year. About 1 in 12 people now has the illness, the study authors said.
The study was published recently in the European Respiratory Journal.