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Obesity-related gut damage may worsen asthma symptoms

Changes in gut function caused by weight gain are associated with an increase in asthma severity, according to research.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition known to be exacerbated in patients with obesity

The Nottingham Trent University study, presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference, reports a significant association of increasing body weight with higher levels of inflammation, signs of gut permeability, and poorer control of asthma.

These findings not only suggest that losing weight could improve symptoms for patients with severe asthma but also highlights the gut as a potential, alternative therapeutic target for improving asthma control in patients with obesity.

Weight gain has previously been shown to alter the composition of gut bacteria, which can lead to increased gut permeability. Having a ‘leaky gut’ can allow harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, triggering inflammatory responses throughout the body.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition known to be exacerbated in patients with obesity. Although it is common, if poorly controlled it can lead to serious complications including fatigue, lung infections and an increased risk of severe asthma attacks, which can be life threatening.

How increased gut permeability may affect asthma control has not previously been investigated.

Cristina Parenti and colleagues in Nottingham Trent University's School of Science and Technology examined the relationship between body weight and gut permeability with the symptoms of 98 patients with severe asthma.

Patients with lean to obese body mass index (BMI) reported their symptoms using the Asthma Control Questionnaire-6. Blood tests were taken to measure levels of gut permeability markers (lipopolysaccharide binding protein (LPB)) and calprotectin), as well as markers of asthma-related inflammation (granzyme-A, IL-5, IL-6, CCL-4).

Patients with poorly controlled asthma had significantly higher levels of LBP and levels of LBP increased with increasing body weight. Increasing concentrations of LBP also correlated with higher levels of asthma-related inflammatory markers.

Lead investigator, Cristina Parenti, said: “We have found a significant link between gut permeability, being overweight and poor asthma control, particularly in people with obesity. This suggests that dietary interventions to improve gut barrier function may be an effective, alternative treatment target for asthma patients who are overweight or have obesity.”

The current study included only a small number of patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma. The team now plan to recruit more patients to the study and to investigate the effects in participants with well-controlled asthma, over a range of BMIs, as well as examining whether targeting the gut can improve asthma control in affected patients.

Cristina Parenti added: “Our initial findings show that increased gut permeability is likely to be a factor in worsening asthma symptoms in patients with obesity, so it will be interesting to look at whether dietary interventions can improve symptoms for these patients.”

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    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with nearly 39,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

    NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

    NTU is ranked 4th most sustainable university in the world and 1st in the UK for sustainability-themed Education and Research in the 2021 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

    The Society for Endocrinology is a UK-based membership organisation representing a global community of scientists, clinicians and nurses who work with hormones. Together they aim to improve public health by advancing endocrine education and research, and engaging wider audiences with the science of hormones.

    The presentation “Investigating the effect of obesity on gut damage, systemic inflammation, enhanced asthma severity due to gut derived bacteria, endotoxin” was presented at SfE BES 2022 in Harrogate, UK on Tuesday 15 November 2022.

    The Society for Endocrinology’s annual conference, SfE BES 2022, was held at Harrogate Convention Centre on 14-16 November 2022. The conference featured some of the world’s leading endocrine researchers, nurses and clinicians coming together to exchange knowledge, share experiences and strengthen collaborations across our global community of endocrinologists.

Obesity-related gut damage may worsen asthma symptoms

Published on 17 November 2022
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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