Association between obesity and asthma - epidemiology, pathophysiology and clinical profile

Muc Da Encarnacao, Magdalena; Mota-Pinto, Anabela and Padez, Cristina (2016). Association between obesity and asthma - epidemiology, pathophysiology and clinical profile. Nutrition Research Reviews, 29(2) pp. 194–201.



Obesity is a risk factor for asthma, and obese asthmatics have lower disease control and increased symptom severity. Several putative links have been proposed, including genetics, mechanical restriction of the chest and the intake of corticosteroids. The most consistent evidence, however, comes from studies of cytokines produced by the adipose tissue called adipokines. Adipokine imbalance is associated with both proinflammatory status and asthma. Although reverse causation has been proposed, it is now acknowledged that obesity precedes asthma symptoms. Nevertheless, prenatal origins of both conditions complicate the search for causality. There is a confirmed role of neuro-immune cross-talk mediating obesity-induced asthma, with leptin playing a key role in these processes. Obesity-induced asthma is now considered a distinct asthma phenotype. In fact, it is one of the most important determinants of asthma phenotypes. Two main subphenotypes have been distinguished. The first phenotype, which affects adult women, is characterised by later onset and is more likely to be non-atopic. The childhood obesity-induced asthma phenotype is characterised by primary and predominantly atopic asthma. In obesity-induced asthma, the immune responses are shifted towards T helper (Th) 1 polarisation rather than the typical atopic Th2 immunological profile. Moreover, obese asthmatics might respond differently to environmental triggers. The high cost of treatment of obesity-related asthma, and the burden it causes for the patients and their families call for urgent intervention. Phenotype-specific approaches seem to be crucial for the success of prevention and treatment.

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