Effects of obesity and fat distribution on ventilatory function: the normative aging study

Chest. 1997 Apr;111(4):891-8. doi: 10.1378/chest.111.4.891.


Objective: Although the influence of obesity on ventilatory function has long been recognized, the nature of the relationship and the mechanisms are not yet clear. The purpose of this report was to examine the effects of overall obesity and fat distribution on ventilatory function.

Methods: Multiple measurements over > 30 years from 507 subjects with lifelong tobacco consumption of < or = 1 pack-year were analyzed separately in five age decades from 30 to 79 years. FVC, FEV1, ratio of FEV1 to FVC, and maximal midexpiratory flow rate (MMEF) were each adjusted for age and stature. Relative adiposity (or obesity) was assessed using the body mass index (BMI). Subscapular skinfold thickness, abdominal girth, and the ratio of abdominal girth to hip breadth (AG/HB) were used as measures of body fat distribution. Multiple linear regression was used to explore the effects of overall adiposity and body fat distribution on ventilatory function.

Results: BMI was positively associated with the ratio of FEV1 to FVC at all ages (p < 0.01), and negatively with FVC and MMEF between 40 and 69 years (p < 0.01). After adjustment for BMI, subscapular skinfold thickness was negatively associated with both FVC and FEV1 (p < or = 0.02) among men aged 30 to 59 years, whereas AG/HB was negatively associated with FVC and FEV1 in men aged 50 to 59 years only (p < or = 0.0004).

Conclusions: Body fat distribution has independent effects on ventilatory function after adjustment for overall obesity in men. The finding that age modifies this association has implications for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maximal Midexpiratory Flow Rate
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Respiration / physiology*
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Vital Capacity