Obesity and asthma

Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Apr;110(1):83-102. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2005.10.002. Epub 2005 Nov 17.


Obesity is an important public health problem. An increasing body of data supports the hypothesis that obesity is a risk factor for asthma. These data include numerous large cross-sectional and prospective studies performed in adults, adolescents, and children throughout the world. With few exceptions, these studies indicate an increased relative risk of asthma in the obese and overweight and demonstrate that obesity antedates asthma. Obesity appears to be a particularly important issue for severe asthma. Studies showing improvements in asthma in subjects who lose weight, as well as studies showing that obese mice have innate airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) as well as increased responses to certain asthma triggers also suggest a causal relationship between obesity and asthma. The mechanistic basis for this relationship has not been established. It may be that obesity and asthma share some common etiology, such as a common genetic predisposition, common effects of in utero conditions, or that obesity and asthma are both the result of some other predisposing factor such as physical activity or diet. However, there are also plausible biological mechanisms whereby obesity could be expected to either cause or worsen asthma. These include co-morbidities such as gastroesophageal reflux, complications from sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), breathing at low lung volume, chronic systemic inflammation, and endocrine factors, including adipokines and reproductive hormones. Understanding the mechanistic basis for the relationship between obesity and asthma may lead to new therapeutic strategies for treatment of this susceptible population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology*