Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Study flips child obesity-asthma link on its head

By Wei Yi-chia and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A group of local researchers have found a causal link between childhood obesity and the development of asthma, contradicting the established belief that it is childhood asthma that leads to excessive weight gain in children.

The group came to the conclusion after conducting a study titled “Pathway from central obesity to childhood asthma” and urged parents to ensure their children are not developing a sedentary lifestyle in which they spend too much time looking at a screen.

Starting in 2010, the study followed the development of approximately 2,800 fourth to sixth-graders for three years. The researchers observed the children and collected data annually on their physical fitness, obesity measures, sedentary time and pulmonary function.

The study was conducted by six researchers, including associate professors at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine Yungling Leo Lee (李永凌) and Chen Yang-ching (陳揚卿), as well as physician Huang Kuo-chin (黃國晉) from the university hospital’s Department of Family Medicine.

Their findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on May 15.

“The research found that participants spent an average of 6.9 hours a day engaged in sedentary behaviors and 2.9 hours looking at screens,” Chen told a press conference at the university in Taipei on Tuesday.

The data also showed that schoolchildren with poor physical fitness are 1.87 times more likely to develop abdominal obesity than those with an adequate level of fitness and that young children who spend more than two hours a day using digital devices are 1.26 times more at risk of developing this type of obesity, Chen said.

Chen said the group employed three distinct statistical analysis methods to process the three years of data that they collected and the results strongly suggest that gaining too much abdominal weight antedates the development of asthma.

“The conclusion of the analysis overthrows the long-held belief that asthmatic children are more susceptible to obesity because their physical activity is often restricted,” Chen said.

“On the contrary, it is obesity that leads to a decrease in children’s pulmonary function, inflaming the body and altering hormones, thereby causing asthma,” the researcher added.

Huang said parents were advised to not only pay close attention to their children’s physical fitness, but also encourage them to do at least one hour of moderate to high-intensity exercise a day.

“In addition, parents should also limit the amount of time their kids spend on sedentary activities and using devices with screens, reduce their sugar intake, and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption,” Huang said. “These measures are essential for helping prevent asthma in children.”

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