Carrying around extra weight is one of the most potentially harmful things to your health. Those who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other serious health issues. Another potential issue for such individuals is reduced lung capacity.
The Weight of the World
This was the conclusion of a study spanning two decades, which was authored by a team of Spanish researchers and published in the journal Thorax. For their study, the Spanish team relied on data gathered by the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), a project that has been collecting and analyzing health information for nearly thirty years.
Thanks to this valuable source, the study authors had access to data from over 3,600 adults from eleven European countries, in addition to Australia. When the study began, the average age of these participants was 34, with the majority (57%) being of normal weight. Of the remaining adults, 24% were overweight, 6% were obese and 12% were found to be underweight.
The subjects were last examined twenty years into the study, when their average age had reached 54. Over this period, 53% of the subjects had gained a moderate amount of weight, to the tune of approximately 0.5 to 2 pounds per year. Slightly less than one in ten (9%) gained more than this amount annually, while 34% exhibited no changes in their body weight. Only 4% of the subjects slimmed down during the twenty year period.
Bigger Waistline, Weaker Lungs
Upon reviewing their data, the study authors found a decline in lung capacity among those who put on extra pounds. Specifically, this trend was observed among not only healthy-weight subjects, but also in those who were either overweight or obese when the study began. In contrast, obese young adults who trimmed down during the study were able to curb their declines in lung capacity.
Given these findings, the authors concluded that the “negative effects of overweight and obesity on lung function can be reversed by weight loss even in later adult life. Therefore, public health policies that promote healthy lifestyles and body weight may be important for maintaining good lung function in adult life.”