While obesity is known to be a risk factor for developing asthma, according to a study, people with asthma are also likely to become obese. The research indicates that those who develop asthma as adults and those who have non-allergic asthma are at the greatest risk of obesity.
According to the team behind the research, the relationship between asthma and obesity is more complex than previously thought and more research is needed to better understand and tackle these two growing health challenges. Dr Subhabrata Moitra, the lead researcher said, “We already know that obesity can be a trigger for asthma, perhaps via a physiological, metabolic or inflammatory change but until now there has been very little research on whether the reverse is true, whether asthma can lead to obesity.”
“In this study, we have enough people and we have followed them for long enough to observe the relationship between these two conditions,” he explained.
Under this study, the participants were considered to have asthma if they reported ever having asthma and had an asthma attack or were woken up by an attack of shortness of breath in the previous 12 months, or if they were currently taking asthma medication. The study began recruiting in the 1990s, and participants were followed up after ten years and again after 20 years. The researchers examined the relationships between having asthma at the start of the study and the likelihood of being obese ten years later. They also studied people who had developed asthma after ten years in the study and their risk of obesity by 20 years. Researchers took other risk factors into consideration, including age, sex, country and physical activity.
They found that 10.2% of people with asthma at the start of the study had become obese ten years on. Among people who did not have asthma, 7.7% were obese ten years later. The increase in the risk of obesity was even greater in people whose asthma began in adulthood. It was also greater in people who had asthma but did not suffer from allergies.
Dr Moitra said, “By following a large number of study participants over two decades, we have been able to observe how having asthma increases a person’s risk of going on to become obese, especially if their asthma begins in adulthood or if they have asthma but no allergies.
“Our findings suggest the relationship between the two conditions is more complicated than we previously realised. It’s important that we do more work to pick this apart. For example, we do not know why having asthma increases the risk of developing obesity or whether different asthma treatments have any effect on this risk.” he added. The full findings of the study were discussed in the meeting of European Respiratory Society International Congress 2018.