If you had a respiratory condition when you were a young child, you may be at higher risk of developing obesity in adulthood. New research into childhood health has placed asthma sufferers in a high-risk category for obesity and its attendant health consequences.
The study focused on 2,200 elementary-age children in California. And the results were pretty stark – childhood asthma was found to be associated with a 51% increase in obesity risk over a ten-year period.
According to Dr. Frank Gilliland, the lead author of the study, “I was surprised it was that substantial.”
Interestingly, the researchers found that the kids who used “rescue” inhalers to treat flare-ups respiratory problems were less likely to develop obesity than their peers who did not treat their symptoms with inhalers. Rescue inhalers are different than “control” inhalers, which are used long-term to reduce asthma symptoms.
Both obesity and asthma have increased pretty significantly in recent years. This study suggests that there’s a connection between the two conditions.
It corroborates previous findings that obese children are more likely to develop asthma than children with healthy weights.
Life with asthma can be unpleasant. It presents with inflamed airways, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing.
There has yet to be a clear causal relationship between obesity and asthma. So far, only a correlative relationship has been proven. The good news is that childhood asthma does not guarantee an obese future. Especially not when preventative lifestyle measures are taken.
Gilliland theorizes that the relationship might have to do with the fact that asthmatic children are less likely to engage in physical play. It also might have to do with poor sleep.
“Sleep disturbances are common in asthma, and a large risk factor for obesity.”
Many asthma medications also have the side-effect that they can promote weight gain. Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo of the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital says all these factors play into each other.
“Children who don’t feel well can’t exercise…. Part of it is fear.”
There are a few things parents can do to reduce obesity risk for their asthmatic children. The first is to encourage the kids to use their rescue inhalers in case of flare-up. Rescue inhalers were shown to engender a 43% reduced risk of later-onset obesity in the kids who used them.
You should also pay attention to the child’s sleep patterns, and make interventions if you suspect they aren’t getting enough sleep.
Also, if they can participate in physical activities without exposing themselves to really serious risk, encourage them to do so.
And, of course, healthy eating has an enormous impact on weight and health in general.