Association between obesity and the prevalence of allergic diseases, atopy, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in Korean adolescents

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2011;154(1):42-8. doi: 10.1159/000319207. Epub 2010 Jul 24.


Background: Although several mechanisms underlying the asthma-obesity connection have been proposed, debates still remain. This study was to determine whether overweight is associated with a higher prevalence of atopy, asthma symptoms, airway obstruction, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) or biomarkers of inflammation in a sample of Korean adolescents.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey involving questionnaires, skin tests, spirometry and methacholine challenge tests among 717 adolescents from Seoul (South Korea). Overweight status was defined as a BMI greater than the local age- and gender-specific 85th percentile.

Results: Overweight subjects more frequently reported ever having wheezing (24.6 vs. 14.0%, p = 0.001) and wheezing in the previous 12 months (11.5 vs. 6.3%, p = 0.02) than normal-weight subjects, especially in boys. Atopy was more common among overweight adolescents than among those of normal weight (61.5 vs. 49.2%, p = 0.002), especially in boys (65.0 vs. 52.8%, p = 0.005). Overweight subjects had higher total WBC counts and eosinophil counts, especially boys. The presence of BHR was more common only among overweight girls (32.8 vs. 18.0%, p = 0.028). Overweight status was a significant risk factor for the presence of atopy (odds ratio = 1.49; 95% CI 1.06-2.10), after adjusting for various confounders by logistic regression analysis.

Conclusions: An association was found between overweight status and both atopy and an increased prevalence of wheezing in adolescent Korean boys. These findings suggest that being overweight in puberty may be one of several risk factors responsible for atopy, BHR, and asthma symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology*
  • Eosinophils
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Sounds
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin Tests


  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Immunoglobulin E