Adiposity, asthma, and airway inflammation

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Mar;119(3):634-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2006.10.029. Epub 2006 Dec 4.


Background: Several studies have found obesity to be associated with an increased prevalence of asthma. For reasons that remain unclear, this association has often been reported to be stronger in women than in men. One possible explanation might be that these studies have used body mass index to identify adiposity, which might be a less reliable measure of body fat in men than in women.

Objective: We sought to explore the association between body fat percentage measured by means of bioelectrical impedance analysis and asthma, airflow obstruction, and airway inflammation in men and women.

Methods: Respiratory questionnaires, spirometry, bronchodilator response, exhaled nitric oxide level, and percentage of body fat were measured in a population-based cohort of approximately 1000 individuals at age 32 years.

Results: There was a significant association between the percentage of body fat and asthma in women (P = .043) but not in men (P = .75). Airflow obstruction was associated with percentage of body fat in women (P = .046), but there was an inverse association in men (P = .010). Bronchodilator responsiveness was also associated with lower body fat in men (P = .004). Airway inflammation, measured by means of exhaled nitric oxide, was not associated with body fat in either women (P = .17) or men (P = .25).

Conclusion: Adiposity is associated with asthma and airflow obstruction in women. This does not appear to be mediated by airway inflammation. In men airflow obstruction and bronchodilator responsiveness are associated with a lower percentage of body fat.

Clinical implications: In women, but not in men, obesity is associated with asthma and airflow obstruction, but there was no association with airway inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bronchi / drug effects
  • Bronchi / physiopathology
  • Bronchitis / epidemiology*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / pharmacology
  • Bronchospirometry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Bronchodilator Agents