Can Obesity Make Asthma Worse?

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Obesity and asthma are growing in the modern world. American Academy of Allergy for asthma and has stated that around 300 million people all over the world suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. It has also stated that the prevalence of asthma increased 75% during the period 1980-1994 and it is still on the increase. Asthma rates in children under the age of five have increased more than 160% during this period. Although pollution in the air and water and conditions such as exposure to fumes, gases or dust are said to be the reasons for this increase in asthma, obesity and change of food habits are also responsible for this increase.

Obesity and asthma are interlinked

Asthma and obesity are interlinked. A number of studies have confirmed this association between obesity and asthma. Dr. Jun Ma of the Palo Alto Medical Research Institute in California has written in the medical journal “Allergy” that both of these diseases have become much more common over the past three decades. Dr. Ma and her team observed about 4,500 men and women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2005-2006 and found out that about a third of them were overweight, and another third were obese.

How does obesity worsen asthma?

Recent researches have confirmed that the presence of obesity in asthmatic patients worsens their symptoms while reducing weight tends to give them some relief.

Obesity reduces air intake

There is a mechanical impact of obesity on lung volumes since the pressure of excess fat makes it difficult for lungs to expand fully. As a result, the severely obese often tend to breathe more frequently, and gasp with a lesser tidal volume of air. This increased effort of breathing worsens their condition of asthma patients who need immediate hospitalization.

Obese children are more affected

Sara Rosenkranz, doctoral student in human nutrition, Manhattan, conducted researches with her team at Kansas State University and revealed that there is close correlation between childhood obesity and asthma. She says that kids who are overweight and inactive are having — even at the age of 8 to 10 years old — a negative response to exercise challenge tests, which might be contributing to the increase that was being seen over the past several decades in asthma prevalence as well as obesity prevalence.

Another aspect of connection between asthma and obesity that has come out to light recently is that obese persons have a higher concentration of ‘leptin,’ which is particularly observed in obese children who have asthma. This substance leptin is produced by fat tissue in the body and sensitizes the airways to allergens, making obese people vulnerable to asthma.

Lung space restricted by fat tissues

The lung space is restricted in the obese people who have asthma. Exertion in the higher muscle mass surrounding the lungs and the airways has to be increased due to obesity, reducing the air exchange in the lungs. This may result in collapsing the smaller airways thus further reducing the surface area for good oxygen exchange. All these lead to a state for the lungs to gasp vigorously for air which worsens asthma symptoms.

Obesity can cause reflux disease in asthma patients

Obesity is prone to develop acid reflux which has been found as one that can trigger the asthma symptoms. Obesity can trigger asthma and cause irritation or inflammation because of acid backing up from the stomach.

Bad food habits in obese people worsen the condition

Bad food habits that normally obese people have will result in developing or worsening of asthma. Increased amounts of diary product intake, as well as certain foods that trigger asthma can result in worsening conditions.

The impact of obesity on asthma is growing adverse day by day in the modern lifestyle. The combination of both makes life more complicated. By controlling weight and obesity through diet and food habits, the severity of asthma can be reduced to a certain extent.


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