New research suggests asthma and obesity may have a common genetic link. The study, conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo, found genes associated with chronic inflammation in asthma are more active in people who are obese.
The findings suggest losing weight may help treat the chronic lung condition.
"Our findings point the way to the management of asthma in the obese through simple weight reduction," said researcher Paresh Dandona, M.D., an endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism expert at UB.
The research, published online in the journal Obesity, involved two related studies: A comparative analysis of the genes of obese people and those of normal weights (60 in all); and an experiment that examined how various biological indicators — including the behavior of asthma-linked genes — changed when morbidly obese patients underwent gastric bypass surgery.
In the comparative study, the scientists found four genes associated with asthma were more active in obese and morbidly obese people, by twice as much in some cases. The scientists also found higher concentrations of two asthma-related compounds in the blood of obese and morbidly obese patients.
In the second study, researchers found the activity of at least six asthma-related genes decreased in patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery to lose weight.
"Ours is the first study to provide a mechanistic link between obesity and asthma through biological/immunological mechanisms," Dr. Dandona said. "There has been, until now, no biological, mechanistic explanation other than the fact that obesity may raise the diaphragm and thus reduce lung volumes."
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