COPD patients who lose weight have better outcomes


2 Mar 2016

Weight loss involving low-energy diet and resistance training has shown promising results for obese patients with COPD.

The pilot study, published in Respirology, suggested weight reduction with maintenance of skeletal muscle mass improved COPD outcomes and called for further research.

“Given the paucity of evidence in the area, our novel study provides a framework for development of guidelines for the management of obese COPD patients and in guiding future research,” the authors concluded.

Lead author Vanessa McDonald, of the Priority Research Centre for Healthy Lungs at the University of Newcastle’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, said there were currently no guidelines for treating obesity in COPD patients.

In fact, some research has suggested obesity may have protective effects.

Ms McDonald said one of the negative effects of weight loss was loss of muscle mass, which could exacerbate COPD. The researchers hypothesised that preserving that muscle mass through resistance training would allow COPD patients to safely embark on a low-energy diet in a bid to lose weight.

“We saw the prevention of that loss of muscle mass as an important target” she told the limbic.

She conceded the pilot study was small and uncontrolled, with 28 participants, but had resulted in a “really good proof of concept”.

“There’s clearly indications that people (with COPD) who lost weight had better outcomes,” she said.

These indications included increased exercise capacity (using the six-minute walk test) and in patients’ improved quality of life.

“It wasn’t only they were doing more – they felt they were getting better symptom relief as well,” Ms McDonald told the limbic.

She said she was now working on securing funding to take the theory to the next level, with the end goal to develop treatment guidelines for obese COPD patients.

“These are very small numbers and it lacks a control arm so it was very much a proof of concept,” she said.

“We really do need to do a bigger study with a control arm to work towards developing treatment guidelines. It’s very promising.”

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