Fat accumulates in the lungs of overweight people

Fat accumulates in the lungs of overweight people

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Does obesity lead to fat deposits in the lungs?

For the first time, adipose tissue was found in the lungs of overweight and obese people. This amount of fat increases depending on the body mass index.

The University of Western Australia's latest investigation has now found that obesity and obesity in humans contribute to adipose tissue in the lungs. The results of the study were published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Lung samples from deceased people were examined

For their investigation, researchers analyzed the lung samples from 52 deceased people and found that the amount of fat in the lungs increased according to the body mass index. The results could explain why being overweight or obese increases the risk of asthma. Of course, it would therefore be interesting to find out whether the determined effect can be reversed by losing weight.

Adipose tissue found in the walls of the airways

Fifteen of the participants did not have asthma, 21 participants had asthma but died of other causes, and 16 died of asthma. Using dyes, the researchers performed detailed analyzes of almost 1,400 airways from the lung samples under the microscope. The researchers found adipose tissue in the walls of the respiratory tract, with more in people with a higher body mass index.

Increasing fat content changes the structure of the respiratory tract

The increase in fat content appears to change the normal structure of the airways and cause inflammation in the lungs, which could explain the increased risk of asthma in overweight or obese people. The connection could be explained by the direct pressure of the overweight on the lungs or by a general increase in inflammation when overweight. Excess fat in the airway walls makes breathing difficult and favors inflammation, this limits the air flow in the lungs and at least partially explains an increase in asthma symptoms.

Is the airway change reversible?

The discovered relationship between body weight and respiratory diseases could also explain how being overweight or obese aggravates symptoms in people with asthma. This goes beyond the simple observation that patients with obesity have to breathe more through activity and exercise. The observations indicate true changes in the respiratory tract associated with obesity. More research is now needed to find out whether the observed fat build-up could be reversed by weight loss. Basically, however, asthma patients should already be helped to achieve a healthy body weight.

More research is needed

Given the increasing incidence of obesity at a national and international level, the study could be of great importance in understanding why asthma remains an important health problem and helping to find new ways to improve asthma treatment. Since this was a relatively small study, further studies with larger groups and other lung diseases have to be carried out to check the available results. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • John G. Elliot, Graham M. Donovan, Kimberley C.W. Wang, Francis H.Y. Green, Alan L. James, Peter B. Noble: Fatty Airways: Implications for Obstructive Disease, in European Respiratory Journal (query: 18.102019), European Respiratory Journal

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