Over the past three decades there has been a parallel rise in two of the most common health conditions in children — asthma and obesity — suggesting the two may be linked.

After developing a new method to model health data, scientists at University of Utah Health and the University of Southern California have found a possible explanation for the connection: asthma leads to the onset of obesity. By understanding how one condition gives rise to the other, researchers may be able to devise strategies for preventing obesity in this subset of children.

A report of the research findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Yue Zhang, PhD, lead author of the study and research associate professor of internal medicine at U of U Health, found the co-occurrence of asthma and obesity compelling but was puzzled by previous studies examining the issue. Some investigations suggested that asthma led to obesity but others pointed to the opposite. In evaluating the body of research, it dawned on him that something had been missing from their analyses.