Early weight gain 'ups asthma risk'
Babies who rapidly gain weight in the first three months of life are more likely to develop asthma, a study has found.
Researchers at the University of Bristol analysed information on height, weight and asthma symptoms in almost 10,000 people from birth to age 17.
They found rapid weight gain from birth to age three months was consistently associated with asthma in eight and 17-year-olds.
It was also linked with lower lung function and increased responsiveness of the airways, which are both signs of asthma.
In contrast, fast weight gain in children aged between three and seven was associated with higher lung function at 15 years old.
Asthma is one of the world's most common chronic diseases in childhood, affecting 1.1 million children and 4.3 million adults in the UK.
Britain has some of the highest asthma rates in Europe, with three people dying from the condition each day, according to Asthma UK.
Dr Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, lead researcher on the study, said: "It is clear from our research that there is a connection between babies gaining weight quickly in the first three months of life and the risk of them developing asthma later on.
"We are not sure exactly what causes this but it may be that rapid weight gain leads to abnormal development of the lungs or the immune system. Further studies will be required to confirm these findings.
"We would recommend that GPs check a child's personal growth curve if they come to them with asthma-related symptoms and take this into account in their decision to start medication."
The research, which used data from the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol, analysed records for 9,723 people.
Current asthma was reported for 13.9% of those aged eight, 13.2% at age 14 and 15.3% at age 17.
Many factors are associated with an increased risk of asthma but the cause of the condition is still not known.
It is now widely accepted that events in early childhood could be critical for asthma development, with rate of foetal growth and low birth weight both associated with the condition.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, added: "Asthma is a complex condition, affecting one in 11 people in the UK, yet years of research underfunding means it still remains a relative mystery.
"The relationship between birth weight and the development of asthma is unclear; while these new findings show that babies who gain weight quickly in the first three months of life may be at increased risk of developing asthma, it has also been recognised previously that babies born with a low birth weight are more likely to develop asthma later on in childhood.
"More research is needed to get a clearer picture of the connection between a baby's weight and their likelihood of developing asthma in later life."
The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.