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Respir Physiol. 1996 Jan;103(1):75-82.

Smaller alveolar-arterial O2 gradients in Tibetan than Han residents of Lhasa (3658 m).

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Tibet Institute of Medical Sciences, Lhasa, China.


Previous studies have indicated that native Tibetans have a larger lung capacity and better maintain arterial O2 saturation during exercise than Han ("Chinese") acclimatized lowlanders. To test if differences in ventilation or alveolar-arterial O2 gradient (A-aDO2) were responsible, we compared 10 lifelong Tibetan and 9 Han acclimatized newcomer residents of Lhasa (3658 m) at rest and during progressive exercise. Resting blood gas tensions and arterial O2 saturation in the two groups were similar. During exercise the Tibetans had lower total ventilation and higher arterial CO2 tensions than the Han (both P < 0.01) and markedly lower A-aDO2 (7 +/- 1 vs. 11 +/- 1, 13 +/- 1 vs. 18 +/- 1, and 14 +/- 1 vs. 20 +/- 1 mmHg at light, medium, and heavy workloads respectively, all P < 0.01). The Tibetans' narrower A-aDO2 compensated for their lower exercise ventilation such that arterial O2 tension and saturation were raised above acclimatized newcomer values and better maintained during exercise. We concluded that the Tibetans exhibited more efficient pulmonary gas exchange which compensated for reduced ventilation and lessened respiratory effort.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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