How Obesity Harms Your Lungs

It’s safe to say that obesity has become a major health issue in the United States. The main consequences of obesity – such as a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke – are well known. In addition to these problems, new research indicates that obesity may affect your lungs as well. 

Taking up Space 

Appearing in the European Respiratory Journal, this study found that the lungs of those who are overweight or obese are often lined with fatty tissue. For their report, the authors examined donated lung tissue samples from 52 deceased individuals. Out of this group, 16 adults had died from asthma, while 21 had been diagnosed with this condition but died from other causes. The remaining 15 subjects had no asthma history. 

These tissues were injected with dyes, with the goal of providing a better view of their interior sections when placed under a microscope. This allowed the study authors to identify patches of fatty tissue, which were observed clinging to the walls of airways. The final step in this process was to compare lung tissues against the corresponding donor’s body mass index (BMI). 

More Fat, More Problems.

Upon reviewing all this data, the research team concluded that the higher a donor’s BMI, the more fat was found in their lung tissues. Furthermore, the presence of fat warped the lungs’ airways, causing inflammation to occur within the organ. 

“Being overweight or obese has already been linked to having asthma or having worse asthma symptoms,“ stated Dr Peter Noble, an associate professor at the University of Western Australia in Perth and a co-author of the study. “This study suggests that another mechanism is also at play. We’ve found that excess fat accumulates in the airway walls where it takes up space and seems to increase inflammation within the lungs. We think this is causing a thickening of the airways that limits the flow of air in and out of the lungs, and that could at least partly explain an increase in asthma symptoms.”

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