CHICAGO Obese children and adolescents are 26 percent more likely to have some kind of allergy, especially to food, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
They said it is not clear from the study if obesity causes allergies, but it suggests controlling obesity in young people may be important for lowering rates of childhood allergies and asthma.
"We found a positive association between obesity and allergies," said Dr. Darryl Zeldin, acting clinical director at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences or NIEHS, whose study appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
"The signal for allergies seemed to be coming mostly from food allergies. The rate of having a food allergy was 59 percent higher for obese children," Dr. Stephanie London, a researcher at NIEHS, said in a statement.
For the study, the team analyzed data on 4,000 children and young adults aged 2 to 19 that included information about allergies and asthma. They looked at a number of factors including total antibody levels to indoor, outdoor and food allergens, body weight, and responses to a questionnaire about diagnoses of hay fever, eczema, and allergies.
Children who had a body mass index that was in the top 95 percent for children of their age were considered obese.
The researchers found antibodies for specific allergens were higher among children who were obese or overweight.
Childhood and adult obesity have emerged as a growing problem not only in the United States but in many countries around the world.
"While the results from this study are interesting, they do not prove that obesity causes allergies. More research is needed to further investigate this potential link," Zeldin said.
Some 16 percent of U.S. children and young adults aged 2 to 19 are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
(Editing by Michael Conlon, Editing by Sandra Maler)