Weight change and lung function: implications for workplace surveillance studies

J Occup Environ Med. 1999 Jul;41(7):596-604. doi: 10.1097/00043764-199907000-00008.


This study evaluated the relationship between weight change and longitudinal measurement of lung function among 361 men providing at least five pulmonary function tests. The men in this study were participants in a workplace pulmonary surveillance program for subjects with exposure to refractory ceramic fibers (RCFs). Occupational and environmental studies are generally designed to evaluate factors suspected of causing excess decline in lung function. Failure to adequately account for all significant factors may lead to erroneous conclusions regarding change in lung function. This study utilized two different statistical models to evaluate longitudinal changes in a cohort of RCF workers. What was unique to this study was the modeling of longitudinally measured initial weight, weight change, and longitudinal exposure before and during the period of observation. Results showed a strong relationship between weight gain and longitudinal loss in lung function that approximated forced vital capacity declines of 16 mL for every kilogram of weight gain per year in both models. This value is comparable or greater in magnitude and significance to other factors known to be inversely related to lung function, such as age and pack-years smoking to time of initial testing. In conclusion, weight gain was found to have a significant impact on longitudinal change in lung function. Therefore, weight gain becomes a very important variable that requires consideration whenever longitudinal studies of pulmonary function are conducted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ceramics / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mineral Fibers / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Function Tests*
  • Vital Capacity
  • Weight Gain*


  • Mineral Fibers