Obesity is related to many health problems and its prevalence keep scaling up. Chronic respiratory diseases affect more than one fifth of the population and are responsible of a heavy human and socioeconomic burden. Weight gain is related to an increase of the incidence or severity of conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obstructive sleep apnea, and the obesity-hypoventilation syndrome.
Weight loss, on the other hand, was linked to a marked improvement of these conditions and a reduction of the need for treatments.
The mechanisms by which obesity can contribute to the development, and increase the severity of respiratory diseases remain unclear even though mechanical, inflammatory, genetic and hormonal factors were suggested as an explanation.
Sedentary lifestyles and increased pollution brought about by industrialization pose major challenges to the prevention of both obesity and chronic respiratory diseases. An important challenge will be to find efficacious weight-loss strategies for obese patients with chronic respiratory diseases. The usual recommendation to increase physical activity is difficult for these patients to implement, since they are prone to a sedentary lifestyle imposed by shortness of breath.
Magali Poulain, Mariève Doucet, Geneviève C. Major, Vicky Drapeau, Frédéric Sériès, Louis-Philippe Boulet, Angelo Tremblay, François Maltais. The effect of obesity on chronic respiratory diseases: pathophysiology and therapeutic strategies, CMAJ 2006;174(9):1293-1299. http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/abstract/174/9/1293