Children with asthma might be more prone to obesity later in childhood or in adolescence, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that kindergarten-age children with asthma in southern California are 51 percent more likely to become obese over the next 10 years compared to kids who don’t have asthma.
Asthma rescue medications, but not controllers, were found to potentially reduce this risk by 43 percent, which came as a surprise to researchers, who said it warranted additional study.
The study, “Effects of Childhood Asthma on the Development of Obesity among School-Aged Children,” was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Lead study author was Zhanghua Chen, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
“Asthma and obesity often occur together in children, but it is unclear whether children with asthma are at higher risk for onset of obesity or whether obese children develop asthma, or both,” Chen said in a press release.
Chen and her colleagues studied the records of 2,171 children who were in kindergarten and first grade when they enrolled in the Southern California Children’s Health Study (CHS). The children were not obese at the time they enrolled.
A total of 13.5% of the children had asthma at the time of enrollment in the study. After following them for up to 10 years (the average time was 6.9 years), researchers found that 15.8% of the children had become obese.
The results were confirmed in a different set of children who were in the fourth grade when they participated in the CHS.
Some factors that could have influenced the results were included in the investigation, including the children’s health insurance, their weight at the time of enrollment, ethnic background, their family’s income, exposure to tobacco smoke, and physical fitness. None of these factors could successfully explain the results, however.
“Our findings add to the literature that early-life asthma history may lead to increased risk of childhood obesity,” Chen said.
The authors recognized limitations to the study that could have influenced the results, such as relying on parents’ reports about asthma diagnoses, having little information about the children’s exercise patterns, and no information about their diets.
Still, they suggest that common-sense strategies for children with asthma should be adopted to improve their overall health status while reducing the risk of obesity.
These strategies could include eating healthier, increasing physical activity, controlling asthma with proper medication, and trying to better understand what triggers disease symptoms.