Low Weight and Lung Disease

Does severe lung disease cause you to lose weight or is low weight a risk factor for developing the lung disease? Doctors around the United States recently set out to understand the connection between body mass index and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is the term used to describe any lung condition that restricts airflow in and out of the lungs. This includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The American Lung Association reports 16 million patients have been diagnosed with some form of COPD. As many as 16 million more are undiagnosed.

Anywhere from 24 percent to 35 percent of COPD patients have low body mass and malnutrition. That is defined as less than 90 percent of their ideal weight or weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of their initial weight. In a study of 458 men, researchers found middle-aged and older men with low body weight were at a “substantially higher risk of COPD.” The doctors also studied women, but were unable to come to a conclusion on their findings.

“A somewhat surprising result of this study is our finding that men with high body baseline body mass had a lower risk of getting COPD,” write the researchers. While they are pleased at their findings, they admit they do not understand them. The source of the connection remains unclear, although they speculate that low birth weight babies might maintain low body mass index throughout life and be at higher risk for lung problems in adult life. The doctors say early nutritional intervention may perhaps avert later lung problems.

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