Researchers link childhood obesity to asthma

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Asthma not only impacts people's physical health, it costs the United States billions to treat every year.

Now a new study finds reducing obesity in children could have a huge impact for them, and in some cases, even prevent asthma in kids.

Air pollution from the recent fires is making Scott Ewy of Culver City cough and wheeze. He's been dealing with asthma for years.

"Since I was a kid," Ewy said. "I think I was first diagnosed when I was 10 or 12."

Researchers are learning more about preventing asthma. The study from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests obesity is a factor.

"The study looked at data from six academic pediatric medical centers over a six year period of time," said Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan, with Aire Medical of Los Angeles.

In the U.S., doctors estimate there are 6 to 8 million pediatric asthma cases and researchers say 1 million of those cases could be directly attributable to being overweight or obese.

"So when we think about asthma, we know it's a chronic disease and it has two main components." Marks-Cogan said. "The first component is the constriction of airways. And the second is inflammation. With inflammation you get an increased amount of mucous. And mucous fills the airways and air can't flow as freely."

Researchers said the heavier a child is the more likely they are to develop asthma. Scientists believe 10 percent of all U.S. cases of pediatric asthma could be avoided if all children maintained a healthy weight. The government has issued new exercise guidelines for kids.

"They recommend one hour of activity per day in children ages 6 to 17 years old," Marks-Cogan said. "Talk about nutrition. Give them a varied diet of fruits and vegetables and reduce the amounts of processed foods."

Scott said not only did asthma interfere with his school activities, it's also been expensive to treat. He's glad other generations will benefit from this research.

"Take steps to prevent obesity and therefore prevent asthma, hopefully for these kids in the future," he said.
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