A study by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) has concluded that the risk of obesity is higher among adults with asthma. Subhabrata Moitra, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alberta in the division of pulmonary medicine, carried out this research at ISGlobal.
The study had more than 8,700 participants from 11 European countries and Australia. The study found that asthmatic participants had an increased 21 per cent risk of obesity compared to non-asthmatic participants. The study also concluded that there is a higher risk among patients with non-allergic asthma, those who had asthma for a longer time, and those under treatment with corticosteroids.
ISGlobal researchers used data collected between 1990 and 2014 from the cohort study, European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS). The researchers examined the asthmatic characteristics of the participants at the time of recruitment and had follow-up visits at 10-year intervals. The data was collected from questionnaires, lung function tests, and measures to determine participants’ body mass index and asthma status.
Asthmatic participants with a longer disease duration had a 32 per cent larger risk of obesity compared to participants with a shorter duration. Participants with non-allergic asthma had a 47 per cent larger risk of obesity compared to participants with allergic asthma. Asthmatic participants under treatment with corticosteroids had a 99 per cent higher risk of obesity.
“The bottom line is that the asthmatics who were on oral corticosteroids, they had a higher risk of becoming obese than who didn’t have asthma,” Moitra said.
The study also tested for factors such as participants’ smoking and physical activity, however, it was found that these factors did not change the trajectory of participants becoming obese.
Moitra noted that there could be other factors that increased the risk of obesity.
“Diet is is definitely something to consider … [because] there could be many things which we could not ask in [the study] population.”
Moitra added that sometimes asthma may be over-diagnosed.
“[Over-diagnosing does not apply to] developing countries where there is a resource-limited setting and the physicians don’t have adequate equipment to identify asthma properly,” Moitra said. “But in Canada, a very developed country, I’ll bet the primary physicians or the general physicians, they often over-diagnose asthma. [It] could be a simple case of allergic rhinitis, and the physicians diagnose that as asthma.”
When an asthmatic is given medication they may stop taking the medication leading to the asthma being uncontrolled after a period of time. This can lead to physicians prescribing oral corticosteroids.
“There is no way that the old controller medication would act as equally as before,” Moitra said. “The physicians don’t have any other option, except prescribing oral corticosteroids … to reduce the exacerbation of symptoms.”
However, Moitra said asthma exacerbation could have many other causes, such as being exposed to dust particles or insulating materials at work that aggravate asthma symptoms. Moitra said that many physicians do not ask these questions to find the cause of asthma symptoms, and by asking these questions the use of oral steroids like corticosteroids can be reduced.
Moitra hopes that the study can further educate physicians about their patients’ health.
“At the end of the day, [the point of] all these public health studies, they’re basically to help the patients and to educate the physicians.”