Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fatter women better off with their lungs

woman smiling
After menopause, lung function declines but less so in women with a body mass index well above the values that have been recommended in public health campaigns.

The term "overweight" is becoming more and more dubious as ever new studies are being published showing positive sides of body weight and body fat. Just today I have come across another such study, this time on lung function and menopause.

It is a well-known fact that we have to face: As we get older, our lungs get weaker. This is inevitable and can be measured by the so-called FEV-1 test: Try to exhale as much air as fast as possible in one second; when the exhaled air volume is measured, it gives a good estimate of lung function.

This test has been done in more than four thousand women, aged 45 to 56 and not taking hormones, in Norway. In women, lung function is influenced by the hormones. Thus, women after menopause, on average, perform worse in the FEV-1 test than women still menstruating.

And now we come to the point: The decline of lung function is highest in women with a body mass index (BMI) below 23, and it is lowest in women with BMI 23 to 28. In other words, women who have been (de)classed as "overweight" (BMI 28) are, in many cases, better off than so-called "ideal weight" women (BMI 23), when it comes to the lungs. The ideal weight, according to this study, is the official borderline to "overweight" - BMI 25!

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