Obesity and Asthma

Nancy Sanker Health Guide
  • Seems like a grim title, especially when I sit here writing in the land of sweet tea, fried green tomatoes and peanut butter pie. But the truth is that asthma is now related to the weighty issue of extra poundage. No one wants to hear this, especially during potato salad and let’s-grab-an-icecream-cone season, but it’s also a great time to work off the reason that putting on a swim suit is your least favorite thing to do. Trust me - lose the weight. You’ll look better and breathe easier.


    The results of an analysis of seven studies on severe asthma involving 333,102 patients were reported in the April 2007 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society. It seems that for overweight and obese individuals, the incidence of asthma increases by a staggering 50 percent. The researchers draw a logical line between asthma incidence and obesity. Decrease the numbers of individuals struggling with weight issues and decrease our rate of asthma diagnoses.

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    The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2002) reveals that 65 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. A co-author of the study, Dr. E. Rand Sutherland, M.D., M.P.H., of the National Jewish Medicaland ResearchCenter in Denver, Colorado, comments, “Although asthma is less prevalent than obesity, it affects approximately seven percent of the adult U.S. population. If significant weight loss could be achieved in the population ofoverweight and obese individuals, new asthma cases in the United States could fall by as much as 250,000 per year. If that decrease can be extrapolated to the pediatric population, where the annual incidence of asthma is as much as five times higher, the effect of even small changes in mean population body mass index may translate into significant decreases in asthma incidence in children and adults.”


    The layers of compelling information continue to build like a high-calorie Mexican layered dip. Reports show that almost 75 percent of emergency department visits for asthma involve obese individuals and the asthma pre-dates the obesity. 


    What is the physiology behind these statistics? The May 2005 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology lists the links between these two chronic issues.


    In obese individuals, the:


    • lungs are under-expanded
    • sizes of breaths are smaller
    • possibility of low-grade chronic inflammation is greater
    • blood levels of certain hormones from fat tissue may be higher.


    Under-utilized lungs and inflammation can lead to narrow airways. Certain hormones can lead to even more inflammation. Any way you slice that cheese-laden pizza – it doesn’t look good. No one can ignore the buffet of evidence. Everyone agrees that more study on asthma and obesity is warranted.


    Meantime, there are multitudes of ways to shed the pounds. Mull over the best approach for you and your lifestyle while you take a walk and…you’re already taking the first steps to breathing easier.

Published On: June 20, 2007