Obesity and pulmonary disease: unanswered questions

Authors


A Pietrobelli, Paediatric Unit, Policlinic GB Rossi, Verona University Medical School, Piazzale L. A. Scuro 1, 37134 Verona, Italy. E-mail: angpie@tin.it

Summary

Obesity is associated with risk of pulmonary disease, and adversely affects lung function. The parallel increase in obesity and asthma suggests the two conditions are linked; indeed, they can worsen each other. Obesity and inadequate asthma control are associated with poor quality of life, and place a high economic burden on public health. Although the obesity–lung interaction is a major issue for basic research and clinical studies, various questions remain unanswered. Do intrauterine and early life factors impact on the development of obesity and lung disease? If so, can this be prevented? Asthma is generally more severe in obese subjects, but is adiposity a driver of a new asthma phenotype that features greater morbidity and mortality, worse control and decreased response to medications? Obese individuals have small lung volumes, hence their airway calibre is reduced and airway resistance is increased. What puzzles physicians is whether peripheral airways undergo remodelling, which would increase bronchoconstriction. Obese asthmatics respond suboptimally to anti-inflammatory treatment, which raises the question: ‘what drug for what patient?’ Life expectancy is decreased in obesity and in chronic pulmonary disorders, but does obesity protect against or trigger chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? The time has come to find answers to these questions.

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