Asthma and obesity



Dr Louis-Philippe Boulet

Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec

2725, Chemin Ste-Foy

Québec, QC, G1V 4G5, Canada.



The prevalence and incidence of asthma have increased among obese children and adults, particularly among women. Obesity seems to be a predisposing factor for the development of asthma, but the underlying mechanisms of its influence are still uncertain. Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain the link between obesity and asthma such as a common genetic predisposition, developmental changes, altered lung mechanics, the presence of a systemic inflammatory process, and an increased prevalence of associated comorbid conditions. Over-diagnosis of asthma does not seem to be more frequent in obese compared to non-obese subjects, but the added effects of obesity on respiratory symptoms can affect asthma control assessment. Obesity can make asthma more difficult to control and is associated with a reduced beneficial effect of asthma medications. This could be due to a change in asthma phenotype, particularly evidenced as a less eosinophilic type of airway inflammation combined to the added effects of changes in lung mechanics. Weight loss is associated with a universal improvement of asthma and should be part of asthma management in the obese patient. Additional research should be conducted to better determine how obesity influences the development and clinical expression of asthma, establish the optimal management of asthma in this population and determine how obesity affects long-term asthma outcomes in these patients.