Asthma: Major US study finds significant link to obesity

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The findings of a new study linking asthma and obesity have put additional pressure on ministers and the health service to improve unhealthy modern lifestyles.

The findings of a new study linking asthma and obesity have put additional pressure on ministers and the health service to improve unhealthy modern lifestyles.

The study, carried out by the respected Centers for Disease Control public health laboratories in the United States, found that clinically obese adults are 66 per cent more likely to have asthma than adults of normal weight.

It also confirms that smokers are 29 per cent more likely to be asthmatic and suggests that former smokers, at 36 per cent, are at greater risk than non-smokers.

These findings, from the CDC's National Centre for Environmental Health in Atlanta, Georgia, add evidence to a long-suspected link between asthma and obesity, which have risen in parallel over the past few decades.

Last year, British researchers showed that obese children are 77 per cent more likely to suffer from asthma, as well as other major illnesses such as heart disease, which could emerge in adulthood.

Experts are very concerned about the health, social and economic implications of the predicted steep rise in Britain's obesity levels in the future.

Over the past 20 years, the rate of obesity has trebled and one in five British adults is now clinically obese, with a potential cost to the NHS and wider economy of about £2.5bn a year. The National Audit Office warned last year that by 2010 the rate could be one in four, costing the country £3.5bn a year.

With 5.8m UK sufferers, asthma already costs the NHS more than £850m a year. A comparable rise in obese asthmatics would push the bill well over the £1bn mark within the decade.

These costs will add to the pressure on the Department of Health to address our increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

Professor Peter Burnie, a public health expert at the St Thomas' and St Guy's Hospitals in London, said: "There is an added incentive to control both obesity and asthma, and get a grip on the situation."

Respiratory experts cite several possible reasons for the link between obesity and asthma: lungs could be over-burdened by an obese person's weight and weakened by lack of exercise, and their airways could be tighter.

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