Background: Previous studies have suggested links between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, and abdominal obesity. Although abdominal visceral fat is thought to be associated with cardiovascular risk factors, the degree of visceral fat accumulation in patients with COPD has not been directly studied. The aim of this study was to investigate the abdominal visceral fat accumulation and the association between visceral fat and the severity and changes in emphysema in COPD patients.
Methods: We performed clinical and laboratory tests, including pulmonary function, dyspnea score, and the six-minute walking test in COPD patients (n = 101) and control, which included subjects with a smoking history but without airflow obstruction (n = 62). We used computed tomography to evaluate the abdominal visceral fat area (VFA), subcutaneous fat area (SFA), and the extent of emphysema.
Results: The COPD group had a larger VFA than the control group. The prevalence of non-obese subjects with an increased VFA was greater in the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease Stages III and IV than in the other stages of COPD. The extent of emphysema was inversely correlated with waist circumference and SFA. However, VFA did not decrease with the severity of emphysema. VFA was positively correlated with the degree of dyspnea.
Conclusion: COPD patients have excessive visceral fat, which is retained in patients with more advanced stages of COPD or severe emphysema despite the absence of obesity.
Keywords: abdominal obesity; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; visceral fat.