Background: The prevalence of atopy and asthma is affected by age, sex and lifestyle factors. Obesity was reported to be a risk factor for asthmatic symptoms in children and adults.
Objective: To examine the relation between body mass index (BMI) and the prevalence of atopy, rhinitis, wheezing and bronchial responsiveness in adolescents.
Methods: BMI (kg/m2), skin-prick test, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) to methacholine, and self-reported rhinitis and airway symptoms were assessed in a cross-sectional survey in 1459 eighth-grade students (age 13.2 to 15.5, mean 13.6 years) of seven junior high schools in northern Taiwan.
Results: The prevalence of atopy was 42% in boys and 27% in girls. The study population was grouped into quintiles of BMI by sex. Girls in the highest BMI quintile had higher prevalence of atopy and rhinitis symptoms. Compared with the middle three quintiles, they had increased risk of atopy in multivariate analyses adjusted for area of living, sibling number, parent education level and family history of asthma (odds ratio = 1.77, 95% confidence interval = 1.15-2.73). Girls with the lowest BMI quintile had lower prevalence of BHR and wheezing. Compared with the middle three quintiles, they had reduced risk of BHR in multivariate analyses adjusted for area of living, atopy, family history of asthma, and baseline pulmonary function (odds ratio = 0.40, 95% confidence interval = 0.20-0.81). No association between BMI and atopy or BHR was seen in boys.
Conclusion: BMI was a significant predictor of atopy, allergic symptoms and BHR in teenage girls.