Lung Health and Obesity

Asthma sleep disordered breathing and obesity related

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Diseases may occur at the same time but may not be directly related. Understanding the relationship between obesity, asthma and sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) could lead to better treatment and improved quality of life.

A new editorial published in the Journal of Pediatrics, written by Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, M.D., and David Gozal, M.D, from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Chicago, looks to answer the question of whether or not obesity, asthma and SDB are linked or just an interesting random occurrence.

By understanding how these three conditions are connected, if they are at all, can lead to better treatments and better symptom management.

"If you have SDB and asthma, consult your doctor about treatment options."

SDB can include sleep apnea, snoring and periodic lack of sufficient oxygen, called intermittent nocturnal hypoxia. Two recent studies highlighting the possible correlation between the three disorders sparked the need for more insight.

The first study looked at obesity and SDB's association with severe asthma. The second study involved SDB's affect on sleep and how that impacts cognitive skills.

The first study, involving obesity and SDB was led by Kristie Ross, M.D., from the Department of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The study was conducted for one year and included 108 children aged between four and 18. Out the 108 children, 42 percent were obese and 29 percent had SDB.

While obesity was not linked to an increased risk of severe asthma after one year, SBD was linked to an increased risk of developing severe asthma. SDB sufferers were over three times more likely of having severe asthma after one year.

The editorial, citing additional research, noted a strong association between instances of SDB in children with poorly managed asthma. By treating SDB it helped improved the child's asthma.

The second study involved 37 obese adolescents whose BMI was in the 97th percentile, and was led by Tamara S. Hannon, M.D., from the Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Endocrinology/Diabetology at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Of the 37 adolescents, 90 percent snored during sleep and 45 percent had some instance of SDB.

The study found that sleep disturbance and poor sleep quality led to lower scores on standardized tests, poor memory recollection and psychomotor, such as coordination, efficiency. Lower math scores were also associated to obstructive sleep apnea.

The editorial furthers the conclusion reached by this study, using additional studies as evidence, that obesity can increase susceptibility to SDB which can lead to poor cognitive results at even the lowest levels of sleep disturbance.

The editorial concludes that asthma and obesity may not be directly linked but asthma and SDB are. Additionally, obesity can possibly increase SDB susceptibility.

So while all three disorders may not occur at the same time, it's highly probable that two disorders can coexist according to the editorial.

The editorial highlights the often complex nature of disorders that affect the body. While treating SDB may improve asthma, more research needs to be done to explore treating obesity and its affect on SDB.

Learning how disorders can coexist or can affect one another can lead to better treatment and improve quality of life for the individual.  

The editorial was published in the December 2011 edition of The Journal of Pediatrics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 4, 2012
Last Updated:
January 4, 2012