Childhood Asthma Risk May Depend On Weight and Age

Asthma and obesity are both major public health concerns that often begin in childhood and share some common risk factors. Both conditions have increased in prevalence in the last 20 years, raising speculation that they may be related. Early childhood is a dynamic period for growth as well as disease development; therefore it is important to examine the associations between asthma and obesity, beginning at birth.

The authors analyzed data on 285 full-term babies who were genetically at high risk of developing asthma due to parental history of asthma or respiratory allergies. In the first year of life, being overweight was associated with a decreased risk of asthma and better lung function at ages 6 and 8. Beyond age 1, being overweight was no longer protective for asthma and could even confer a higher risk for asthma. If a child became overweight later in childhood, i.e., overweight at age 5 but not at age 1, there was a higher risk for developing asthma at age 6 or 8. Asthma, therefore, was found to be associated with being overweight in early childhood, but not in infancy. The authors recommend that nutrition during infancy should be optimized to promote lung growth and development, but after age 1, attention should be focused on balanced nutrition to prevent overweight and obesity, which may be a potential risk factor for asthma.

Zhumin Zhang, PhD, HuiChuan J Lai, RD, PhD, Kathy A Roberg, RN, MS, Ronald E Gangnon, PhD, Michael D Evans, MS, Elizabeth L Anderson, BSN, MA, Tressa E Pappas, BS, Douglas F DaSilva, BS, Christopher J Tisler, MT, Lisa P Salazar, BS, James E Gern, MD, Robert F Lemanske, Jr, MD

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