Obesity in young children and its relationship with diagnosis of asthma, Vitamin D deficiency, iron deficiency, specific allergies and flat footedness: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Stephen Malden, Jenny Gillespie, Adrienne Hughes, Ann-Marie Gibson, Abdulaziz Farooq, Anne Martin, Carolyn Summerbell, John J. Reilly

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There is evidence that a number of medical conditions and co-morbidities are associated with obesity in young children. This review explored whether there is evidence of associations with other conditions or co-morbidities. Observational studies of young children (mean age < 10 years) were identified using electronic searches of five databases (MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, AMED and SPORTDiscus). Of 27 028 studies screened, 41 (comprising 44 comparisons) met the inclusion criteria. These studies provided data on five distinct diseases/conditions: asthma (n = 16), vitamin D deficiency (n = 10), iron deficiency (n = 10), allergies (n = 4) and flat-footedness (n = 4). Thirty-two studies were appropriate for meta-analysis using random-effects models, and revealed obesity was significantly associated with having asthma (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.3–1.7), vitamin D deficiency (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.4–2.5) and iron deficiency (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.4–3.2). Heterogeneity (I 2) ranged from 57% to 61%. Narrative synthesis was conducted for all studies. There was no evidence of a consistent association between obesity in young children and eczema, dermatitis or rhinitis due to the low number of studies. However, there was an association with flat-footedness. These results have implications for health policy and practice and families. Further research leading to a greater understanding of the associations identified in this review is suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalObesity Reviews
Early online date18 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2020


  • co-morbidities
  • associations
  • childhood obesity
  • meta-analysis

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