Although abdominal obesity, as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), has long been recognized as a risk factor for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, little is known about the effect of WHR on pulmonary function, especially in women. In this study of 1094 men and 540 women (18-102 years) from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), we examined the effect of WHR on forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV(1)). Cross-sectional analyses, after accounting for body mass index (BMI) and other variables, showed a strong inverse association of WHR with FEV(1) in men (beta = -1.338, P=.0001) but not in women. Furthermore, larger values of WHR were associated with greater reductions of forced vital capacity (FVC) in men (beta = -1.383, P =.0005) compared to women (beta = -0.679, P =.02). Thus, body fat distribution has independent effects on lung function that are more prominent in men than women.