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Pediatr Pulmonol. 1997 Sep;24(3):187-94.

Effects of body fat on ventilatory function in children and adolescents: cross-sectional findings from a random population sample of school children.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Childhood obesity is associated with a range of adverse consequences, and the prevalence is increasing in developed nations. Most of the literature on obesity and ventilatory function in children concerns samples selected for gross obesity with relatively little detail available from random population samples. This report examines the effect of total body fat as a percentage of weight (TBF%) on ventilatory function in a nationally representative sample of 2,464 Australian school children aged 9, 12, and 15 years. Forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) were used as measures of ventilatory function. TBF% was estimated from skinfold thickness measurements. Ventilatory function was adjusted (for height and then for both height and weight) using linear regression on a logarithmic scale. Adjustment was performed within separate strata of age and gender. Analysis of covariance was used for hypothesis testing. Height-adjusted FVC and FEV1 values increased significantly with increasing weight within each age and gender group and for all subjects combined (P < 0.0001). The effect of TBF% independent of lean tissue was examined using FVC and FEV1 values adjusted for both height and weight, because body weight measures both lean and fat mass. Adjusted FVC and FEV1 values decreased significantly with increasing TBF% within each age and gender group and for all subjects combined (P < 0.0001). Ventilatory function decreased with increasing proportions of body fat. This is consistent with previous findings on lean tissue mass and ventilatory function. Although the magnitude of the effect was relatively small in clinical terms, from a public health perspective our findings indicate yet another adverse consequence of childhood obesity.

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