Asthma may contribute to childhood obesity epidemic

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USC-led international study shows that asthma can make young people more susceptible to other health problems later in life

Toddlers with asthma are more likely to become obese children, according to an international study led by USC scientists.

The finding is a turnabout for children’s health as obesity has often been seen as a precursor to asthma in children, not the other way around. The study, conducted by a team of 40 scientists including researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, was recently published in the European Respiratory Journal.

This is the largest study yet about early-onset asthma and obesity. It focused on more than 20,000 youths across Europe. It shows that, beyond wheezing and shortness of breath, asthma can lead to bodies that make young people more susceptible to other health problems later in life.

Lida Chatzi, the senior author and professor of preventive medicine at USC, says asthma and obesity pack a one-two punch against children’s health, which raises concern about a public health crisis due to their prevalence.

“We care about this issue because asthma affects approximately 6.5 million children – about 1 in 10 – in the United States,” Chatzi said. “It’s a chronic childhood disorder and if it increases the risk of obesity, we can advise parents and physicians on how to treat it and intervene to help young children grow up to enjoy healthy, adult lives.”

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By Gary Polakovic