Findings from studies examining the association between obesity and acute respiratory infection are inconsistent. Few studies have assessed the relationship between obesity-related behavioral factors, such as diet and exercise, and risk of acute respiratory infection.
To determine whether community prevalence of obesity, low fruit/vegetable consumption, and physical inactivity are associated with influenza-related hospitalization rates.
Using data from 274 US counties, from 2002 to 2008, we regressed county influenza-related hospitalization rates on county prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥ 30), low fruit/vegetable consumption (<5 servings/day), and physical inactivity (<30 minutes/month recreational exercise), while adjusting for community-level confounders such as insurance coverage and the number of primary care physicians per 100,000 population.
A 5% increase in obesity prevalence was associated with a 12% increase in influenza-related hospitalization rates [adjusted rate ratio (ARR) 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.07, 1.17]. Similarly, a 5% increase in the prevalence of low fruit/vegetable consumption and physical inactivity was associated with an increase of 12% (ARR 1.12, 95% CI 1.08, 1.17) and 11% (ARR 1.11, 95% CI 1.07, 1.16), respectively. When all three variables were included in the same model, a 5% increase in prevalence of obesity, low fruit/vegetable consumption, and physical inactivity was associated with 6%, 8%, and 7% increases in influenza-related hospitalization rates, respectively.
Communities with a greater prevalence of obesity were more likely to have high influenza-related hospitalization rates. Similarly, less physically active populations, with lower fruit/vegetable consumption, tended to have higher influenza-related hospitalization rates, even after accounting for obesity.