Air Pollution May Be Worse on Obese Kids
WebMD News Archive
May 24, 2004 (Orlando, Fla.) - As the number of children
defined as overweight and obese continues to rise, researchers say new studies
now show that obese children are more susceptible to lung damage from air
pollution than lean youngsters.
"Given the epidemic of obesity in children, it might be
we're developing a population more vulnerable to pollution's negative effects
on the airway," says Heike Luttmann-Gibson, PhD, statistician and research
associate in the Environmental Epidemiology Program at Harvard School of Public
When exposed to the same amount of pollution, obese boys and
girls had more trouble breathing than kids of normal weight, she reports.
Obesity's Far-Reaching Health Effects
The findings offer one more reason to put overweight and obese
youngsters on a diet and exercise program. Consider the facts:
- The number of overweight and obese children has nearly tripled since the
There has been a tenfold increase in the number of children
with type 2 diabetes over the past five years. Once called 'adult-onset'
diabetes, type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and inactivity.
Overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults,
increasing their risk of obesity-related health conditions such as heart
disease, stroke, and bone fracture.
David B. Peden, MD, MS, professor of pediatrics and center
director of the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology at
the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, says, "Being overweight
clearly causes a lot of bad things to happen. But even a modest reduction in
weight can have a big effect on a child's health, including [lung problems tied
to] air pollution."
Problems Expand Along With Ballooning Waistlines
In the study, 611 fourth and fifth graders, who were
participating in a larger study on the long-term effects of air pollution, were
tested for lung function. About one in 10 was obese. Parents of the children
helped fill out questionnaires asking about general and respiratory health.
After analyzing the information, the researchers showed that
the effects of air pollution on lung function were two to five times stronger
for obese children than for those of normal weight, Luttmann-Gibson