In addition to helping overweight and obese people lose weight, bariatric surgery is being increasingly identified as a benefit for treating other comorbidities related to excess body weight. Researchers at the department of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital published a study entitled “Risk of an asthma exacerbation after bariatric surgery in adults” in the journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology revealing that weight loss attributed to bariatric surgery reduces the risk of asthma exacerbation by half in obese patients.
Asthma and obesity are two linked disorders with an increasing impact on public health. In the United States, the prevalence of obesity among adults with asthma (38.8%) is significantly higher than among adults without asthma (26.8%) suggesting obesity and body mass index (BMI) as a risk factor for asthma. Obesity affects asthma control by worsening respiratory symptoms and reducing the efficacy of asthma medications. Despite the evidence, previous studies failed to show an association between weight loss and asthma control in obese patients, likely due to modest weight reduction. In this study, researchers used bariatric surgery, which causes drastic weight loss in patients, and assessed the risk of asthma exacerbation after surgery. Bariatric surgical procedures such as gastric bypass reduces stomach size, causing weight loss by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold. It leads to long-term weight loss.
The study was conducted on 2,261 obese patients with asthma aged 18 to 54 years who underwent bariatric surgery in California, Florida or Nebraska between 2005 and 2011. Two years prior to bariatric surgery, 22% of patients required at least one emergency department (ED) visit or hospitalization for asthma exacerbation. Researchers found that one year after bariatric surgery, the risk for an ED visit or hospitalization for asthma exacerbation decreased to 10.9% of patients and remained the same for two years.
Despite the effectiveness of significant weight loss on asthma morbidity, further research on nonsurgical approaches is required due to the costs and risks of bariatric surgery. “Because the benefit of bariatric surgery might be offset by the initial high cost and risks of surgical complications, our finding also emphasizes the importance of safe, effective, nonsurgical approaches to achieve major weight loss, which would likely benefit millions of obese patients with asthma,” the authors of the study wrote.