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).
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.
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.
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.