Background: Although few retrospective studies of high altitude have reported that obesity might be associated with the development of acute mountain sickness (AMS), this association has not been studied prospectively.
Objective: To determine whether obesity is associated with the development of AMS.
Design: Obese and nonobese men were compared at a simulated altitude of 3658 m (12 000 ft).
Setting: 24 hours in a hypobaric environmental chamber.
Participants: 9 obese and 10 nonobese men.
Measurements: Percentage body fat (by hydrostatic weighing), Lake Louise AMS score, and Sao2 level (by pulse oximetry) were measured.
Results: Average AMS scores increased more rapidly with time spent at simulated high altitudes for obese men than for nonobese men (P < 0.001). The response of Sao2 with exposure differed between nonobese and obese men. After 24 hours in the altitude chamber, seven obese men (78%) and four nonobese men (40%) had AMS scores of 4 or more.
Conclusion: Obesity seems to be associated with the development of AMS, which may be partly related to greater nocturnal desaturation with altitude exposure.