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Asthma and obesity: where are we now?
  1. S Chinn
  1. Department of Public Health Sciences, King’s College London, 5th Floor, Capital House, London SE1 3QD, UK; sue.chinn@kcl.ac.uk

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The importance of the reported association between obesity and asthma is still unclear

An association between asthma and overweight or obesity was first reported in adults in the 1980s.1,2 The papers were concerned with chronic disease in general and excited little attention in the respiratory field at the time. In children concern had been over growth retardation in those with asthma.3 In 1984 Somerville et al4 reported a weak association between symptoms of asthma and increasing weight for height, but again this provoked little interest.

In the last 5 years there have been numerous reports of an association in adults and in children—too many to cite directly.5,6 Even since the later of these two reviews there have been further reports in children,7 in adults,8 and specifically in women.9 The lack of earlier reports does not necessarily imply that the association is recent because, when the prevalence of obesity was lower, there was less power to detect a raised prevalence or incidence in obese subjects. However, in addition to this indirect evidence, there is some direct evidence for the association being recent in origin. In a study of children aged 5–11 years in Britain carried out over 23 years, in contrast to the weak association in the 1977 data cited above, a strong association was found in data collected in 1994.10 In adults there is evidence for an association between asthma and obesity in Britain as early as 1982, but no other reports to show whether the relation existed earlier.6 Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, had already reached 14% in adults in the US by the early 1970s,11 a figure comparable to that reached in England in 1993,12 so it seems …

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