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AIM Fall 2012 Newsletter

The Growing Threat of Asthma and Obesity
by Dr. M. Myrtha Gregoire-Bottex

Obesity has quickly become one of the most pressing threats to public health in the United States. In 2009, 30% of adults and about 12% of youth in Michigan were obese. Obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases like asthma: 13% of obese adults say they have asthma versus about 8% of non-obese adults in Michigan. Though this link between asthma and obesity has been shown in many studies, the reason for it, and obesity's specific effect on asthma, is not yet understood.

There are a number of ideas that may explain the connection between asthma and obesity, but it is likely due to more than one cause. The inflammation throughout the body from obesity may increase the risk of asthma. Eating processed food high in calories and fat may add to obesity and asthma. This kind of diet may also be low in fruit, vegetables, vitamins and antioxidants (which can protect cells from breaking down) that can help prevent asthma and obesity. Poor diet is a risk factor that children and adults are exposed to every day, but even a mother's poor diet during pregnancy may increase her child's risk of asthma. A lack of physical activity, often seen with obesity, is also a risk factor for asthma. Certain genes, found more often in obese patients, may affect the pathway that leads to inflammation and asthma. More research is being done to better understand the link between obesity and asthma.

Asthma care providers must think about how obesity affects asthma when treating patients. Obesity does not appear to lead to a higher risk for severe asthma. Care providers should also expect normal lung function in obese patients. There is also little proof that obesity leads to more allergic airway inflammation. A key difference, however, is that obese patients may not respond as strongly to asthma control medicine. Treatment plans and follow-up care need to address this reduced response.

asthma and obesity Obese asthmatics should follow the same asthma treatment guidelines as lean asthmatics, but with the addition of weight management. An effective asthma care plan for obese asthmatics involves weight loss and exercise. This plan should involve repeated education on asthma control, proper inhaler use, avoiding asthma triggers, a healthy diet, and exercise. Patients with poor symptom control should be urged to adopt a diet with the right amount of vitamins A, C, E, D, and antioxidants. With new ways of treating asthma and obesity, asthma care providers can help patients lead a healthier life.

Based on Obesity, Nutrition, and Asthma in Children, Jason E. Lang, M.D., Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, Volume 25, Number 2, 2012

M. Myrtha Gregoire-Bottex, MD is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Michigan State University where she is the Director of Pediatric Pulmonology and the Cystic Fibrosis Center.

Michigan Obesity Statistics

  • Hispanic (43%) and Black (42%) adults had significantly higher prevalence of adult obesity than White (29%) adults
  • Black (18%) youth had significantly higher obesity prevalence than Hispanic (11%) and White (10%) youth
  • Male youth (16%) are significantly more likely to be obese than female (8%)
  • Michigan has the 10th highest prevalence of obesity in the U.S.
  • In 2018, Michigan is expected to spend $12.5 billion on obesity related health care costs if rates continue to increase at their current levels.

Obesity Risk Factors

  • 77% of adults and 80% of youth do not eat enough fruits and vegetables per day
  • 28% of youth drank at least one pop or soda per day
  • 47% of youth were physically active for at least 60 minutes per day
From Overweight and Obesity in Michigan: Surveillance Update 2011
Flu Shot Season is Here!

People with asthma can have severe complications from seasonal flu. Check with your doctor or local health department for more information about getting a flu shot.

Michigan Asthma Calendar
16  Hands On Training for Managing Asthma, Asthma Network of W. Michigan Fall Asthma Conference, Prince Conference Center at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more info: 616.685.1430, brochure.

8  Managing Asthma in the New Healthcare Environment, Asthma Coalition of NW Michigan Symposium, Great Wolf Lodge, Traverse City, 5:30 to 8 p.m. For more info: 231.935.6930, brochure.

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