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Belly Fat Linked to Asthma is a New Risk Factor for Lung Disease

Tim Boyer's picture
Belly fat and Asthma

Belly fat linked to asthma as a new risk factor toward lung disease is a recent finding presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Amsterdam this week by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.


In a study lasting over a period of 11 years, researchers followed 23,245 non-asthma affected adults ranging in age from 19 to 55 years of age. During the study, the subjects had both their BMI and their waist sizes measured periodically and were interviewed for whether they had developed any signs or symptoms of asthma.

BMI is a body mass index that is used in the assessment of overall obesity. Waist measurements are used to determine what is referred to as “central obesity,” which is considered to be another measure or type of obesity associated with the amount of belly fat an individual carries. Having excess belly fat resulting in a large central obesity rating has previously been linked to several illnesses including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart and cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoporosis, but not asthma. Earlier research had shown an association between overall obesity and asthma. The goal of the researchers was to determine whether belly fat (central obesity) could be linked to asthma as well.

The results of the study showed that participants who are considered to be centrally obese with excessive amounts of belly fat, but were not typed as being overall obese according to their BMI’s, were 1.44 times more likely to develop asthma. Furthermore, participants who had both significant belly fat and overall obesity were found to be 1.81 times more likely to develop asthma.

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"Asthma can affect people of all sizes, but our study has highlighted both the individual and combined effect of central obesity and overall obesity on asthma development,” according to a statement attributed to Ph.D. candidate Ben Brumpton, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who is involved in multiple projects seeking predisposing factors toward adult asthma.

“Both these measures have an individual impact on asthma and an additive effect when they are combined. It is not yet clear why this association exists. Central obesity is closely associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. These factors may play important roles concerning central obesity-related asthma.”

Future studies by the researchers will evaluate the effects of insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes and other elements of metabolic syndrome with respect to individuals with significant amounts of belly fat (central obesity) and subsequent asthma development.

Source: Findings presented at the 2011 European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Amsterdam.

Image credit: morguefile