Childhood body mass index and wheezing disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2015 Feb;26(1):62-72. doi: 10.1111/pai.12321. Epub 2015 Jan 19.


Background: It has been claimed that overweight/obesity, childhood asthma and wheezing disorders are associated, although the results of observational studies have remained inconsistent. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate this.

Methods: An online search of published papers linking childhood asthma and wheezing with overweight/obesity up to May 2014 using EMBASE and MEDLINE medical research databases was carried out. Summary odds ratios (OR) were estimated using random-effects models. Subgroup meta-analyses were performed to assess the robustness of risk associations and between-study heterogeneity.

Results: A total of 38 studies comprising 1,411,335 participants were included in our meta-analysis. The summary ORs of underweight (<5th percentile), overweight (>85th to <95th percentile) and obesity (≥ 95 th percentile) were 0.85 (95% CI: 0.75 to 0.97; p = 0.02), 1.23 (95% CI: 1.17 to 1.29; p < 0.001) and 1.46 (95% CI: 1.36 to 1.57, p < 0.001), respectively. Heterogeneity was significant and substantial in all three weight categories, and not accounted for by pre-defined study characteristics.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that underweight is associated with a reduced risk of childhood asthma, and overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of childhood asthma. Although our findings assert that overweight/obesity and childhood asthma are associated, the causal pathway and temporal aspects of this relationship remain unanswered and deserve further epidemiological investigation.

Keywords: ASTHMA; BMI: meta-analysis; Wheezing disorders: obesity; overweight; systematic literature review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Sounds*
  • Risk