Women who are obese have more severe asthma attacks, according to researchers in New Zealand.

This study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, involved 30 asthmatic women who were divided into  groups based on body mass index (BMI).  Each woman was subjected to a drug-induced asthma attack, then had measures of lung function taken immediately after the attack.

Measures of lung function included volume of air breathed in to the lungs (inspiratory capacity), and volume of air remaining in the lungs after exhalation (functional residual capacity). Lung function was analyzed in relation to BMI.

After the induced asthma attack, women who were obese showed the greatest change in functional residual capacity and inspiratory capacity. Compared to their slimmer peers, women with a higher BMI had more air left their lungs after each breath - and breathed less air in -  during their recovery from an asthma attack.

The researchers say obese women with asthma have more pronounced changes in their lungs during an asthma attack. It appears that these women are less able to inhale as deeply - or exhale as completely - as asthmatic women who are at a healthy weight.

According to the Asthma Society of Canada, asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism from school and the third leading cause of absenteeism from work. The prevalence of asthma has been rising over the last 20 years to an estimated 3 million Canadians.

Asthma experts have yet to pinpoint a cause for this increase, though higher rates of asthma coincide with higher rates of obesity among Canadians.

A body mass index over 30 is considered obese; 20 to 25 is the healthy range. Click here to use our BMI calculator.

For healthy weight management, consider nutrition consulting with Leslie Beck, RD as an effective way to make long-term changes to your eating habits.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.