The relationship between adiposity and respiratory function is poorly understood. Most studies investigating this have used indirect measures of body fat and few have assessed how changes in adiposity influence lung function.
Body fat measured by bio-electrical impedance analysis, body mass index, waist circumference, spirometry, body plethysmography and transfer factor were measured at ages 32 and 38 years in 361 non-smoking, non-asthmatic participants from a population-based birth cohort.
Higher percentage body fat was associated with lower spirometric and plethysmographic lung volumes, but not with airflow obstruction, or transfer factor at 32 years. Changes in adiposity between ages 32 and 38 years were inversely associated with changes in lung volumes. These associations were generally stronger in men than women, but an association between increasing adiposity and lower airway function (forced expiratory volume in 1 s/forced vital capacity) was only found in women. Similar associations were found for body mass index and waist circumference.
Higher percentage body fat is associated with lower lung volumes. Direct and indirect measures of adiposity had similar associations with lung function. Adiposity had a greater effect on lung volumes in men than women but was associated with airway function only in women. There was little evidence that adiposity influenced transfer factor.