Linking obesity and asthma

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 Apr;1311:31-41. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12357. Epub 2014 Feb 12.


A growing body of literature suggests that obesity has a significant impact on asthma risk, phenotype, and prognosis. Epidemiological studies have clearly demonstrated that asthma is more likely to occur in obese patients, and health status is impaired in obese individuals with asthma, with obese asthmatics experiencing more symptoms, worse quality of life, increased healthcare use, and increased asthma severity. However, obesity has well-described effects on lung function and mechanics that can lead to symptoms of dyspnea without causing the pathophysiologic changes of asthma. Adding to the challenges of evaluating this association, some studies have failed to demonstrate a robust relationship between obesity and traditional biomarkers of airway inflammation in adult asthmatics, leading to the conclusion that obesity does not necessarily worsen airway inflammation in asthma. In this regard, emerging data suggest that nonatopic mechanisms may be relevant in obese asthmatics, and that these mechanisms may have a direct impact on the response of obese asthmatics to asthma therapies, most notably inhaled glucocorticoids. This article will review selected aspects of the contributions of obesity-related airway and systemic inflammation to asthma, with a focus on the impact of obesity as a modifier of risk, prognosis, and therapeutic response in asthma.

Keywords: asthma; epidemiology; inflammation; obesity; steroid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors