Possible link between childhood obesity and allergy

A study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and published in the May issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that obese children and adolescents are at increased risk of having some kind of allergy, especially to a food.

Researchers used data covering more than four-thousand children and young adults age 2 to 19 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that is conducted every year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. The data is from a cross sectional study eg a snapshot of the U.S. population at a single point of time. But because researchers do not know whether the timing of the exposure is before or after the health outcome, in this case allergy, they cannot really determine causality.

So, while the results from this study are interesting, the association does not prove that obesity causes allergies, merely that the two are associated. However, this association can set the stage for subsequent more detailed studies that can address the issue of causality.

Currently there is some controversy in the medical literature. Some studies suggest there is a relationship, other studies that there is not but they are all small studies. However, this study clearly shows a relationship. That relationship can now be tested to look to see whether, for example intervening to reduce overweight, might reduce the prevalence of allergy in the population.

For more information on this study, visit www.niehs.nih.gov.

Courtesy of National Institutes of Health

First published in May 2009

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