Adult obesity is linked to asthma cases and is estimated to lead to 250 000 new cases yearly. Similar incidence and attributable risk (AR) estimates have not been developed for children. We sought to describe the relationship between overweight and obesity and incident asthma in childhood and quantify AR statistics in the United States for overweight and obesity on pediatric asthma.


The PEDSnet clinical data research network was used to conduct a retrospective cohort study (January 2009–December 2015) to compare asthma incidence among overweight and/or obese versus healthy weight 2- to 17-year-old children. Asthma incidence was defined as ≥2 encounters with a diagnosis of asthma and ≥1 asthma controller prescription. Stricter diagnostic criteria involved confirmation by spirometry. We used multivariable Poisson regression analyses to estimate incident asthma rates and risk ratios and accepted formulas for ARs.


Data from 507 496 children and 19 581 972 encounters were included. The mean participant observation period was 4 years. The adjusted risk for incident asthma was increased among children who were overweight (relative risk [RR]: 1.17; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.10–1.25) and obese (RR: 1.26; 95% CI: 1.18–1.34). The adjusted risk for spirometry-confirmed asthma was increased among children with obesity (RR: 1.29; 95% CI: 1.16–1.42). An estimated 23% to 27% of new asthma cases in children with obesity is directly attributable to obesity. In the absence of overweight and obesity, 10% of all cases of asthma would be avoided.


Obesity is a major preventable risk factor for pediatric asthma.

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