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Obese Mothers Put Their Babies At Asthma Risk


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Children born to mothers with obesity may be at an increased risk of respiratory problems and, in particular, asthma, according to new findings presented on May 19 at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

"Obesity is not a neutral state; adipose tissue is an active producer of pro-inflammatory cytokines, while it also suppresses the action of anti-inflammatory cytokines," said Dr. Jet Smit, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands. Therefore, he added, when you deal with an obese person, there is not just a problem of excess fat that is being observed, but a problem of systemic inflammation. All this may have a negative impact on the immunological and pulmonary development in the fetus and possibly lead to a higher risk of asthma symptoms after birth.

To figure out whether the presence of these pro-inflammatory factors in overweight and obese women did, in fact, pose their children at a greater risk of developing asthma, Dr. Smit and his team examined the data from nearly 4,000 children, who were followed then from the day they were born till 8 years of age. All the kids were a part of the Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy (PIAMA) birth cohort for evidence of asthma. All the mothers in the study were with the average age of 30 years, and more than one in five women (nearly 21 per cent) were overweight -- which the investigators defined as have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 kg/m2 -- before becoming pregnant.

Asthma was defined as at least one episode of wheeze or dyspnea, or a prescription for inhaled corticosteroids in the previous year. The investigators found that in children who had at least one parent with asthma, a mother's extreme weight raised their risk of developing asthma at age 8 by 65 per cent, compared to the kids of asthmatic parents whose mothers were not obese. This held true despite of the confounding factors, such as such as maternal education, mode of delivery, maternal smoking during pregnancy, duration of breast-feeding, birth weight and the child's Body Mass Index.

"This suggests that children of overweight mothers are exposed to increased levels of pro-inflammatory factors during fetal life, and may have a much greater risk for developing asthma than similar children whose mothers were not overweight," said Dr. Smit and added that the new findings point out that that there is a number of benefits to maintaining, or attaining a healthy body weight. In women of child-bearing age, normal weight appears to be not just a benefit to their own health, but to the health of their baby as well, he said.

As many as 20 million people in the Unites States have been diagnosed with asthma, and nearly 9 million among them being children, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Regardless advance technology and good treatment, asthma is still the reason for about 5,000 lethal outcomes every year just in the United States. Not all the kids born to parents with asthma necessarily develop the airway condition. This happens about 40 per cent of the time, the Academy reports.

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