Over the last few decades, the prevalence of asthma has increased and it is also one of the main causes for children being absent from schools. It has been revealed that children who are overweight are twice as likely to have asthma compared to children of a healthy weight.
Unhealthy diet and not enough physical exercise are connected with a range of cardiovascular risks as well as other chronic diseases, however, some investigations highlight that asthma could be included in that list because the connection between obesity and asthma come from common factors. This is the topic that is currently being discussed at the 2nd EAACI Pediatric Allergy and Asthma Meeting (PAAM 2011) taking place in Barcelona at the International Convention Centre (CCIB), from 13 to 15 October.
Dr Angel Mazon, PAAM 2011 Co-Chair and EAACI Pediatric Section Board Member, explains:
"Does asthma lead to obesity, or are they related to other common factors? A recent explanation that is being investigated is the over production of cytokines (substances with inflammatory effect) due to a variety of stimuli that may lead to the development of asthma. Thanks to these findings, physicians calculate that the frequency of asthma in obese children can be up-to-double that of non-obese kids."
The professionals say that nutritional status demonstrates a positive influence in the fight against asthma. Antonella Muraro, PAAM 2011 Co-Chair and EAACI Treasurer said:
"Indeed, many studies show a protective effect of the Mediterranean diet against asthma. The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and fresh foods, as opposed to fast food, has shown protection in the case of cardiovascular disease and cancer, but it must be thoroughly assessed for asthma."
Asthma and allergy are usually closely associated with allergy having a double role in the development of asthma. One of the clearest causes for asthmatic attacks results from when a child is exposed to large amounts of allergen, for example, when placing in grass fields, in dust or with a cat. Another trigger which is not as clear but most likely more important, is the induction of chronic inflammation in the child's airway when exposed to less amounts of allergen. For example, acute clear symptoms will not develop with a normal amount of dust at home, however, it will cause chronic inflammation, making the child more vulnerable to the effects of all kinds of asthma triggers.
Contrary to popular belief, children with asthma should be encouraged to participant in sports due it is beneficial effects. "Sports have very beneficial effects on the cardiopulmonary system, and an enhanced respiratory capacity will be of much help in the case of asthmatic attacks. Indeed, the lack of exercise leads to lesser respiratory capacity and this to less exercise, creating a vicious cycle."
Since the influence of these triggers have been detected, clinical efforts are now concentrating on creating personalized treatments, as between patients response to treatment varies. "The available treatments for asthma show a slow progress, as every new therapy must be thoroughly assessed before wider availability. All of them have advantages and limitations regarding efficacy and potential adverse effects."
Written by Grace Rattue