02/26/2013 09:09 am ET

Obesity Contributing Risk Factor For Childhood Asthma In Hispanics

More than 3 million Hispanics in the United States live with asthma, according to the most recent data from The Office of Minority Health (OMH). Hispanics are also 30 percent more likely to visit the hospital for asthma compared to non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma compared to non-Hispanic white children.

Much of the high childhood asthma rates reported for Hispanics in the U.S. has been attributed to pollution, as they tend to live in some of the most heavily polluted, urban areas of the country.

While pollution does indeed have a significant impact on childhood asthma, new research published in the Journal of Asthma found that excessive weight may also adversely affect lung function in both Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks.

“While it has been well documented that Hispanics and African-Americans – particularly those who live in urban settings – have a higher prevalence of asthma and obesity, there is less understanding of the lung function in overweight asthmatic minority children,” said Deepa Rastogi, senior author and attending physician at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, in a press release. “What we have learned from this study is that even small increases in weight can negatively impact lung function.”

Researchers feel ethnic differences have much to do with the findings, as both Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children tend to have more upper body fat deposits. Previous studies have found “waist circumference inversely correlates with pulmonary function and directly correlates with asthma severity,” thus, the genetic predisposition to carry fat higher on the body is likely what increases the risk of childhood asthma for Hispanics.

Mexican Americans are the largest Hispanic subgroup in the United States and approximately 23 percent of their children are overweight or obese, states the OMH. Mexican American children are also 1.6 times more likely to be overweight compared to non-Hispanic white children.

Childhood obesity remains a serious concern, not only for children in the United States, but for Hispanic children in other countries as well.

In Mexico, the Institute for Public Health reported obesity among school-aged children went from 18.4 percent in 1999 to 26.2 percent in 2006, and more than 69 percent of the Mexican population over the age of 15 is overweight. Part of the problem, say experts, is that Mexico has strong culture of road-side food stands, where students can easily buy inexpensive, unhealthy food on their way to and from school.

According to the Global Asthma Report, Mexico also continues to be a country with high rates of asthma, as do other Latin America countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Some Eastern European countries and those considered industrialized, such as the United States, the Ukraine and Romania, also demonstrated an increasing asthma trend.

This story was originally published in VOXXI as Obesity: Contributing risk factor for childhood asthma in Hispanics



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