Link found between asthma and obesity

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asthmaAsthmatics are more likely than other Australians to be obese and suffer other long-term health conditions, a new study says.

Australian researchers have found more than one in five asthma patients are obese, and fewer than half had a normal body mass index.

Only about 38 per cent of middle aged asthmatics had a normal body mass index.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report concluded people with asthma aged 18 to 64 were more likely to be obese than those who had never had asthma, but could not identify the reason.

"Although there is some evidence from longitudinal studies that being overweight or obese raises the risk of the onset of asthma in children, especially among boys, it is not clear whether the link ... is physiological or due to subsequent changes in lifestyle," the report said.

"For example, it may be argued that asthma leads to obesity due to an associated reduction in physical activity, or that it affects the quality of asthma management, thereby aggravating the condition."

Asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, affects about two million Australians.

The report also found asthmatics were more likely to suffer other health woes and to seek medical care.

About two-thirds of asthmatics surveyed had seen a doctor in the three months before the survey, and about one-third had visited a doctor in the previous two weeks.

About one in 10 had seen the doctor specifically for their asthma in the past two weeks.

Report author Perri Timmins, of the AIHW's Asthma, Arthritis and Environmental Health Unit, found 16 long-term health conditions that asthma patients were more likely than others to suffer.

"Allergic and inflammatory conditions such as hay fever, allergy, chronic sinusitis, bronchitis and emphysema are consistently more common among people with asthma," he said.

Migraine, back pain, depression and anxiety-related conditions also were more frequent, he said.

"It should be stressed, however, that ... the majority of people with asthma consider themselves in, generally, good health," Dr Timmins said.

The report also confirmed previous studies that found asthma was more common in boys before adolescence and females after adolescence.

© 2007 AAP