Why Belly Fat Could Cause Asthma

According to new research released in fall 2011, extra fat surrounding the abdominal region could put you at an increased risk for developing asthma.

Research on Obesity and Asthma

While many researchers have looked at the connection between general obesity and asthma, a study presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Amsterdam is the one of the first attempts to look specifically at the role of waist circumference and its relationship to lung function.

Studying the Role of Belly Fat

The scientists leading this effort were affiliated with Norwegian University of Science and Technology. They followed close to 25,000 non-asthmatic adults for 11 years through the Norwegian Nord-Trondelag Health Study (HUNT). They discovered that those with a high body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement of body fat based on weight and height ratio, had a 1.44 times increased risk of developing asthma. Further, those with a high BMI who also had a larger waist circumference were 1.88 times more likely to get asthma. These numbers highlight the fact that obesity can be related to asthma, and that having a bigger waist can increase the risks. Just why this is the case isn't completely clear, though.

Getting Below the Surface of Abdominal Fat

One hypothesis is the fact that having abdominal fat is connected to insulin resistance (a condition in which your body doesn't process insulin correctly) and also metabolic syndrome, which refers to a set of risk factors related to cardiovascular disease. Both of these problems seem to play a role in developing asthma. But more research is needed to better understand what the relationship is and how to prevent it.

The Logistics of Obesity and Asthma

What the medical community does currently know is that the lungs don't expand as well in people who are clinically overweight, causing them to take smaller breaths on a regular basis. General obesity also seems to cause low-grade inflammation and hormonal changes that can narrow the airways so it's harder to get air in and out.

Take Action Against Obesity and Asthma

While you can't change your body shape or your predisposition to carry fat around your middle, you can take steps to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. If you're overweight, your doctor can help you determine the best diet and exercise plan for your lifestyle and needs. This can be essential not only to head off asthma but also to reduce your risk for a number of other serious health problems.

Gain Control of Asthma

If you already have asthma, you'll also need to do your best to control it. This means following your asthma action plan, which should include monitoring your symptoms regularly, using your medications as directed, and adjusting them accordingly if there are signs that your lung function is diminishing.




"Get Active." National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2011.

Kevin C. Myron. "Is Obesity a Risk Factor for Asthma?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 10 May. 2005. Web. 7 Oct. 2011.

"Science News: 'Belly Fat' Linked to Development of Asthma, Study Finds." Science Daily. European Lung Foundation, 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 5 Oct. 2011.