Obesity may be linked to adult onset of asthma in women
New York, Nov. 22 (Reuters Health) – Women who are obese are more likely to develop asthma, new study findings suggest, but the reasons for this association are still unclear. “These data add to existing evidence that excess body fat is a major cause of human disease and suggest a new avenue for asthma management and prevention,” Dr, Carlos Camargo, Jr., of Harvard University in Boston Massachusetts, and colleagues say in the November 22nd issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Camargo’s team examined the relationship between body mass index (weight divided by height squared) and the development of asthma in nurses who were participating in a long-term health study. The women completed questionnaires every 2 years about a variety of health and lifestyle factors, including whether a doctor had diagnosed them with asthma and whether they had taken any medication to treat asthma. Over the 4-year study period, 1,596 of the almost 86,000 study participants developed asthma. The research found that the higher the body mass index at the beginning of the study, the more likely a woman was to develop asthma over the next 4 years. This relationship remained even after the investigators adjusted for factors such as diet, use of hormones, and physical activity. In addition, “women who gained weight after the age of 18 were at significantly increased risk of developing asthma,” Camargo and his colleagues write. The findings do not imply that obesity causes asthma, they explain, only that the two conditions are related in some way.
In an editorial in the same issue of the journal, doctors Mark M. Wilson and Richard S. Irwin of the University of Massachusetts Medical school, Worcester, caution even more strongly that obesity causes asthma. They say that it is hard to be sure that the study participants really had asthma, since the research relied on the participants’ account of what their doctors said, and asthma is often misdiagnosed. Wilson and Irwin also point out that it is not unusual for two things to show a strong statistical relationship even when they are not related, because both can be related to some third factor that was not measured. They suggest that the association between obesity and asthma will eventually prove to be an example of this phenomenon.
SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine 1999; 159:2513-2514, 2582-2588.
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