The latest research confirms that there is indeed a connection between obesity and respiratory distress. While exactly how and why the two conditions are linked is still not completely understood yet, the fact that they are related is clear and makes a good case for the importance of losing that extra weight before it is too late.

Obesity: A Risk Factor for Many Health Problems

We know today that obesity puts can put people at risk for a number of serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Now, it has become increasingly apparent that asthma should also be included on this list.

The Scope of the Problem

Today, approximately 20 million or more Americans are diagnosed with asthma.  And as many as a third of this group meet the standards for obesity, which is defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[i] The obesity and asthma connection seems to be related to more severe asthma symptoms, poorer disease management and also lower quality of life among patients.

The Latest Findings

A range of studies recently have supported the fact that obesity may indeed be an asthma trigger. For instance, one study found that a full 75 percent of those patients surveyed who visited the emergency room because of asthma symptoms were significantly overweight by medical standards. Further, in most cases the patient's history reveals that the weight problem occurred before the asthma began, which is a very telling fact.[ii] Another recent study[iii] found that asthma patients who are considered obese had much more severe symptoms than their thinner counterparts. In fact, asthma sufferers who participated in the study and were obese had five times the risk for being hospitalized for asthma symptoms than others who weren't considered significantly overweight.

Cause and Effect

While the exact reason for obesity to cause asthma has not yet been nailed down, there are some factors that researchers think can help to explain the relationship. First, when you are obese, you are forced to take smaller breaths, causing airways to eventually narrow. In addition, further narrowing of the airways can result from inflammation in the fat tissue. Finally, having more fat tissue can cause obese people to have higher levels of a hormone called leptin that is thought to affect the airways and is consistent with the blood make up of asthma patients.[iv]

Take Action

Further research is still needed to better understand what these findings mean for the large population of asthmatics with severe weight problems and to get a handle on exactly how weight works to serve as an asthma trigger. But regardless of what new information becomes available in the future, the experts say that if you are obese, you should act now to help improve your health and breathing. Therefore, you may want to talk with your doctor about starting a reasonable weight loss plan. In addition, it is important to take steps to control your symptoms. This can include avoiding allergy triggers, taking control medication and using a fast-relief inhaler.


[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at .

[ii] From

[iii] The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 122, Issue 3, Pages 507-511, Sept. 2008. The Relationship Between Obesity and Asthma Severity and Control in Adults. David M.Mosen, PhD, MPHa, Michael Schatz, MD, MSb, David J.Magid, MDc, Carlos A.Camargo Jr., MD, DrPH.

[iv] The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 115, Issue 5, Pages 925-927, May 2005. Obesity, smooth muscle, and airway hyperresponsiveness. Stephanie A. Shore, PhD, Jeffrey J. Fredberg, PhD.