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Gov. Chris Christie: Are asthma and weight linked?

July 28, 2011|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
  • Chris Christie campaigning in 2009. The New Jersey governor, a Republican, was hospitalized after having asthma-related breathing difficulties Thursday.
Chris Christie campaigning in 2009. The New Jersey governor, a Republican,… (Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles…)

Famously overweight New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was hospitalized Thursday morning after having trouble breathing.  When his EKG, blood work and chest X-ray came back normal, doctors at the Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J., diagnosed an asthma attack.

The rising Republican star has spoken often about his struggles with his weight, even telling CNN talk show host Piers Morgan that he felt "guilty" about it, the Los Angeles Times reported.  He has also talked publicly about living with asthma.  The subject comes up often when he's stumping about healthcare.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the fiscal conservative cites the cost of his asthma medication when expounding on the "generosity of the state health care plan."

It's unknown whether the governor ever talks about the two conditions together.  But researchers have been delving into the link between obesity and asthma for years.  The two conditions do seem to be connected.

In 2010, the journal Allergy published a study that looked at 4,500 men and women.  Twelve percent of the obese subjects had asthma, while just 6% of the subjects who were normal-weight did. (Overall, 8% of the study participants had asthma.) According to a Reuters report, study subjects' likelihood of asthma rose with their body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement.

A 2008 study of asthmatics in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that obese study participants were more likely to have severe bouts with the condition than normal-weight study participants.

Researchers don't yet know why this connection between obesity and asthma exists.

In a 2005 commentary in Nature Immunology, Harvard Medical School professor Scott T. Weiss, who studies the genetic causes of asthma, wrote that the positive association between obesity and asthma seemed to have greater effects in women than in men.  He also said that "obesity precedes and 'predicts' the development of asthma, not the other way around."

Weiss cited obesity's impact on the mechanics of lung function, its relationship to immune and inflammatory responses that may be related to asthma, and its impact on hormones among the links that researchers should investigate.  

There may also be genes that are critical to both conditions, he wrote.

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