Obesity May Raise Girls’ Risk of Asthma And Allergies
Obese girls may face a significantly higher risk of developing allergies, a new study suggests.
But the researchers found the opposite was true for obese boys: They may actually face a slightly diminished risk for asthma, food allergies, and eczema when compared to normal-weight boys.
“We found a direct increase in the number of atopic [allergic] diseases associated with obesity in urban female children and teenagers, but not in males,” said study co-author Dr. Sairaman Nagarajan, resident physician in the department of pediatrics at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City.
“These results were highly significant, even after adjusting for the effects of age and race,” he said.
Their investigation focused on 113 children (45 percent girls, 55 percent boys), about a quarter of whom were obese.
Medical histories were taken to assess for a range of allergic conditions, including asthma, food allergies, hay fever and/or eczema. The children were then given allergy scores, with those struggling with more allergic conditions getting higher scores.
The researchers found that obese girls had allergy scores higher than normal-weight girls: 4 vs. 2.6. In contrast, obese boys were found to have slightly lower allergy scores than normal-weight boys: 3 vs. 3.4.
“There are many theories as to why” Lieberman added. “The main theory is the role that hormones — estrogen, estradiol, progesterone, etcetera — may play [a role] in driving allergies, and that hormonal levels may be imbalanced in obese patients. And, thus, females with obesity are more prone to allergies than obese males, who do not produce these hormones at levels that females do.”
Still, Lieberman cautioned that “one must take into account that this was a retrospective study on a relatively small sample of children.” Thus, the results must be taken with a grain of salt, meaning the findings could very well be due to chance, he said.