Obesity and Pulmonary Function in African Americans.

PLoS One 2015 21;10(10):e0140610. Epub 2015 Oct 21.

Howard University, Division of Pulmonary Diseases, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America.

Background: Obesity prevalence in United States (US) adults exceeds 30% with highest prevalence being among blacks. Obesity is known to have significant effects on respiratory function and obese patients commonly report respiratory complaints requiring pulmonary function tests (PFTs). However, there is no large study showing the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and PFTs in healthy African Americans (AA).

Objective: To determine the effect of BMI on PFTs in AA patients who did not have evidence of underlying diseases of the respiratory system.

Methods: We reviewed PFTs of 339 individuals sent for lung function testing who had normal spirometry and lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) with wide range of BMI.

Results: Functional residual capacity (FRC) and expiratory reserve volume (ERV) decreased exponentially with increasing BMI, such that morbid obesity resulted in patients breathing near their residual volume (RV). However, the effects on the extremes of lung volumes, at total lung capacity (TLC) and residual volume (RV) were modest. There was a significant linear inverse relationship between BMI and DLCO, but the group means values remained within the normal ranges even for morbidly obese patients.

Conclusions: We showed that BMI has significant effects on lung function in AA adults and the greatest effects were on FRC and ERV, which occurred at BMI values < 30 kg/m2. These physiological effects of weight gain should be considered when interpreting PFTs and their effects on respiratory symptoms even in the absence of disease and may also exaggerate existing lung diseases.

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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0140610PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4619259PMC
June 2016
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