BACKGROUND: Adiposity has been linked to both higher risk of asthma and reduced lung function. The effects of adiposity on asthma may depend on both atopic status and gender, while the relationship is less clear with respect to lung function. This study aimed to explore longitudinal weight changes to changes in forced expiratory volume in first second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC), as well as to incident cases of asthma and wheezing, according to atopy and gender.
METHODS: A general population sample aged 19-72 years was examined with the same methodology five years apart. Longitudinal changes in weight, body mass index, waist circumference, and fat percentage (bio-impedance) were analyzed with respect to changes of FEV1 and FVC (spirometry), and incidence of asthma and wheezing (questionnaire). Gender, atopy (serum specific IgE-positivity to inhalant allergens) and adipose tissue mass prior to adiposity changes were examined as potential effect modifiers.
RESULTS: A total of 2,308 persons participated in both baseline and five-year follow-up examinations. Over the entire span of adiposity changes, adiposity gain was associated with decreasing levels of lung function, whereas adiposity loss was associated with increasing levels of lung function. All associations were dependent on gender (p-interactions < 0.0001). For one standard deviation weight gain or weight loss, FEV1 changed with (+/-)72 ml (66-78 ml) and FVC with (+/-)103 ml (94-112 ml) in males. In females FEV1 changed with (+/-) 27 ml (22-32 ml) and FVC with (+/-) 36 ml (28-44 ml). There were no changes in the FEV1/FVC-ratio. The effect of adiposity changes increased with the level of adipose tissue mass at the start of the study (baseline), thus, indicating an aggregate effect of the total adipose tissue mass. Atopy did not modify these associations. There were no statistically significant associations between changes in adiposity measures and risk of incident asthma or wheeze.
CONCLUSIONS: Over a five-year period, increasing adiposity was associated with decreasing lung function, whereas decreasing adiposity was associated with increasing lung function. This effect was significantly greater in males than in females and increased with pre-existing adiposity, but was independent of atopy.