A Quarter of Pediatric Asthma Cases Attributable to Being Overweight/Obese

Childhood obesity is on the rise, and has been attributed to adverse medical outcomes for children. Most recently, researchers have found that between 23% and 27% of new cases of asthma in children are a direct result of being overweight or obese. 

Researchers conducted a retrospective study using the PEDSnet clinical data research network between January 2009 and December 2015. They compared asthma incidence (defined as “≥2 encounters with a diagnosis of asthma and ≥1 asthma controller prescription”) in children aged between 2 and 17 years based on overweight and/or obese versus healthy weight status. Spirometry was used to make a more conclusive asthma diagnosis. Patients were followed for a mean of four years. 

Final analyses included data on 507,496 children and 19,581,972 encounters. Incident asthma was more likely to occur in overweight (relative risk [RR]: 1.17; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.10–1.25) and obese children (RR: 1.26; 95% CI: 1.18–1.34). Obese children were significantly more likely to have spirometry-confirmed asthma (RR: 1.29; 95% CI: 1.16–1.42). 

“An estimated 23% to 27% of new asthma cases in children with obesity is directly attributable to obesity,” the researchers wrote. “In the absence of overweight and obesity, 10% of all cases of asthma would be avoided.” 

Lead study author Jason E. Lang, MD, an associate pediatrics professor at Duke University, said that obesity may be the only known preventable risk factor for asthma, the most prevalent chronic disease among children. 

“This is another piece of evidence that keeping kids active and at a healthy weight is important,” he said. 

One of the study’s limitations is that it was not a controlled trial, Lang said, so future studies may be able to prove a direct causal relationship. But the results of the present study match findings of previous research, which found that losing weight may help improve asthma. 

“I think it’s reasonable to be concerned that it’s a causal relationship,” Lang said. “It appears becoming overweight or obese as a child significantly increases your risk of developing asthma, and it’s a significant increase, directing attention again to the importance of preventing obesity at an early age.” 

Children with Asthma at Increased Risk of Obesity 

Environmental Factors Do Not Largely Impact Asthma Control in Children 

Guidance for Identifying Severe Asthma 

Introduction to the Yellow Zone: Stressing Variability in Perception of Dyspnea, Real World Nonadherence and Proposed Mechanism of Dose Escalation 

Source: Pediatrics