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Original Research: PULMONARY FUNCTION TESTING |

Fat Distribution and End-Expiratory Lung Volume in Lean and Obese Men and Women

Tony G. Babb, PhD; Brenda L. Wyrick, BSN; Darren S. DeLorey, PhD; Paul J. Chase, MEd; Mabel Y. Feng, MS
Author and Funding Information

*From the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (Dr. Babb, Ms. Wyrick, Mr. Chase, and Ms. Feng), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, Dallas, TX; and Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation (Dr. DeLorey), University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Correspondence to: Tony G. Babb, PhD, Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, 7232 Greenville Ave, Suite 435, Dallas, TX 75231; e-mail: TonyBabb@TexasHealth.org


This research was supported by an American Lung Association Career Investigator Award, AHA, TX Affiliate Grant, and the King Charitable Foundation Trust.

The authors have reported to the ACCP that no significant conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/misc/reprints.shtml).


Chest. 2008;134(4):704-711. doi:10.1378/chest.07-1728
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Background:  Although obesity significantly reduces end-expiratory lung volume (EELV), the relationship between EELV and detailed measures of fat distribution has not been studied in obese men and women. To investigate, EELV and chest wall fat distribution (ie, rib cage, anterior subcutaneous abdominal fat, posterior subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat) were measured in lean men and women (ie, < 25% body fat) and obese men and women (ie, > 30% body fat).

Methods:  All subjects underwent pulmonary function testing, hydrostatic weighing, and MRI scans. Data were analyzed for the men and women separately by independent t test, and the relationships between variables were determined by regression analysis.

Results:  All body composition measurements were significantly different among the lean and obese men and women (p < 0.001). However, with only a few exceptions, fat distribution was similar among the lean and obese men and women (p > 0.05). The mean EELV was significantly lower in the obese men (39 ± 6% vs 46 ± 4% total lung capacity [TLC], respectively; p < 0.0005) and women (40 ± 4% vs 53 ± 4% TLC, respectively; p < 0.0001) compared with lean control subjects. Many estimates of body fat were significantly correlated with EELV for both men and women.

Conclusions:  In both men and women, the decrease in EELV with obesity appears to be related to the cumulative effect of increased chest wall fat rather than to any specific regional chest wall fat distribution. Also, with only a few exceptions, relative fat distribution is markedly similar between lean and obese subjects.

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