The prevalence of obesity and asthma has increased drastically over the past decade but did you know that there is also a subtle link between the two?
Epidemic on the home front
There has been an epidemic of both asthma and obesity in the western world over the past decade and concerted efforts are being made to try and prevent both conditions from escalating out of control. South Africa has been placed third in the world obesity ranking according to Compass Group Southern Africa’s 2011 report, and has been referred to as the “junk food” nation. Asthma, on the other hand, has also been increasing due to environmental, lifestyle and other triggers, and allergens in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the places we work in. What is interesting though is the subtle, as yet not fully documented, link between obesity and asthma.
Ten facts about obesity and asthma
- Being obese may put you at increased risk of developing asthma, for example obese children and teens are twice as likely to develop the condition in comparison with children of the same age who are not overweight
- Obese people often exhibit airway hyper-responsiveness and asthma-like symptoms such as breathlessness and wheezing
- Obesity may worsen asthma symptoms and flare-ups and make it more difficult for the body to respond to asthma medication and treatment
- Obesity may influence sleep patterns and may cause night time awakenings due to breathing difficulties similar to those experienced by asthmatics, although the triggers and causes may be different
- Obesity and asthma may both lead to bouts of depression and low self-esteem, especially in children who may be teased, rejected and even bullied
- Obesity and asthma symptoms both make it difficult to partake in certain physical activities and sport; the former much more than the latter though!
- Weight loss in obese people and asthmatics has demonstrated very positive outcomes such as a +48% remission of symptoms and severity of symptoms, much better asthma control, improved lung function and decreased hospital visits
- Young, obese women with asthma are also linked to a more hormone-related pattern of airway inflammation; they have flare-ups before menstruation and during pregnancy when oestrogen levels are out of balance. Oestrogen simulates the hormone that regulates hunger but also causes inflammation of the airways that trigger asthma.
- Obesity is an important factor that should be considered when identifying elements that need to be part of an asthma control and management plan. Although you can’t always control all the triggers of asthma you can control and even reverse obesity. Millions of people have done so and so can you!
Asthma linked to oestrogen and obesity. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013=04-03/asthma-linked to oestrogen-and-obesity/4607608
Barranco, P. et al. 2012. Asthma, obesity and diet. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/22566313
Gavin, ML. 2012. Overweight and obesity. Retrieved from: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/overweight_obesity.html
Rodriguez, D. Obesity and asthma: what’s the connection? Retrieved from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/asthma/obesity-connection.aspx