Toddlers with asthma are more likely to develop obesity -- linked to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke -- by early young age, according to a study.
The findings, by researchers from the University of Southern California, showed that children diagnosed with asthma had a 66 % higher risk of becoming obese than those without an asthma diagnosis.
For children with persistent wheezing symptoms, their risk of developing obesity was 50 % higher compared to those without such symptoms, the findings revealed.
It could be because asthma is regarded as a barrier to children's physical activity that might lead to accumulation of fat in the body.
Conversely, higher doses of inhaled asthma drug corticosteroids have been hypothesised to increase risk of obesity in children with asthma, the researchers said.
"Asthma and obesity pack a one-two punch against children's health, which raises concern about a public health crisis due to their prevalence," Lida Chatzi, professor of preventive medicine at USC.
"It's a chronic childhood disorder and if it increases the risk of obesity, we can advise parents and physicians on how to treat it and intervene to help young children grow up to enjoy healthy, adult lives," Chatzi said.
For the study, published in the journal, European Respiratory Journal, the team focused on 21,130 young adults across nine countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
They found that children with active asthma were nearly twice as likely to develop obesity than those without asthma and wheezing and those who used medication had the strongest risk of developing the disease.
Importantly, children with asthma who used medication had the strongest risk of developing obesity.
"Asthma may contribute to the obesity epidemic. We urgently need to know if prevention and adequate treatment of asthma can reduce the trajectory toward obesity," said Frank Gilliland, professor at the varsity.