Effect of altitude on the lung function of high altitude residents of European ancestry

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1988 Jan;75(1):77-85. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330750109.


The forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV), and ratio of FEV to FVC (%FEV) of 161 male and 158 female youths of European ancestry who were born at high altitudes and who were residing in La Paz, Bolivia (average altitude of 3,600 m) were examined and compared with those for lowland Europeans and highland Aymara Amerindians. FVC and FEV were significantly larger (p less than .001) in the La Paz Europeans than in two lowland control samples of European ancestry, with the relative differences between samples varying from small (1.5-4.1%) to moderate (7.7-11.9%). It could not be determined whether the enhanced lung volumes of the La Paz European children were acquired through an accelerated development of lung volumes relative to stature during adolescence, as is the case for Amerindian highlanders. After controlling for body and chest size, FVC and FEV were significantly smaller in the La Paz Europeans than in highland Aymara (p less than .001), suggesting that the lung volumes of the Aymara are influenced by factors other than simply growth and development at high altitude. Finally, as found in Amerindians, chest size is an important determinant of intra-individual variation in lung function among highland Europeans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Anthropometry
  • Bolivia
  • Child
  • Ethnicity*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume*
  • Humans
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Vital Capacity*