Study says fatty tissues clog lungs; increase asthma risk in obese people

Fat can be accumulated in the lungs, putting overweight or obese people at a greater risk for asthma, reveals a study.

Overweight or obese
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Fatty tissues clog the lungs of overweight people and make it difficult to breathe for obese people, a study has revealed. Australian researchers, who analyzed lung samples donated by 52 people for research, explained the amount of fat increased in line with body mass index and augmented asthma risk in overweight or obese individuals.

The scientists in an analysis of almost 1,400 airways from the lung samples under the microscope found adipose (fatty) tissue in the walls of airways were more present in people with a higher body mass index.

They said the increase in fat altered the normal structure of the airways and caused inflammation in the lungs, with an increased risk in overweight people for the respiratory condition caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes that carry air to and from our lungs.

The study published in the European Respiratory Journal said 15 people had no reported asthma, 21 had asthma but died of other causes, and 16 persons died of the condition. Professor Thierry Troosters, president of the European Respiratory Society, said more research was needed to determine if the build-up of fatty tissue could be reversed through weight loss.

As asthma cannot be cured, physicians focus on alleviating the patient's asthma-related symptoms, including wheezing, breathlessness, difficulty in breathing. Lead author Dr Peter Noble, an associate professor at the University of Western Australia, said being overweight or obese had already been linked to having asthma, which was due to the excess fat accumulated in the airway walls.

"This is causing a thickening of the airways that limits the flow of air in and out of the lungs and that could at least partly explain an increase in asthma symptoms," he argued. Dr Elizabeth Sapey, chair of the science committee at the British Thoracic Society, said this was the first time the bodyweight had been shown to impact the structure of the airways in the lungs besides the heart and liver.