Obesity and asthma: evidence for and against a causal relation

J Asthma. 2003 Feb;40(1):1-16. doi: 10.1081/jas-120017202.


The evidence for an association between asthma and obesity in adults, and in children and adolescents, is reviewed. Few studies in adults measured height and weight, whereas the majority in children did. Evidence for the association is strong, but that for a gender interaction is weak. There is sufficient evidence to rule out asthma preceding obesity as an explanation, and that increased perception of symptoms in the obese, or a purely mechanical effect, is responsible. However, direct causality is unlikely, because in children the association is of recent origin, and trends in obesity do not explain the rising prevalence of asthma. Atopy was not associated with obesity in a large adult study. Potential explanations that require further investigation are that gastroesophageal reflux as a result of obesity causes asthma, that physical inactivity may promote both obesity and asthma, and that the diets of obese subjects may potentiate asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma* / epidemiology
  • Asthma* / etiology
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / complications
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Obesity* / complications
  • Obesity* / etiology