Obesity, adipokines, and lung disease Academic Article uri icon


  • This review summarizes the state of the current literature relating to the associations of lung disease on obesity and adipokines (proteins produced by adipose tissue) in humans. Obesity is an independent risk factor for asthma. Recent studies suggest that obesity is also an independent risk factor for chronic airflow obstruction, as is seen with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The mechanistic basis for these associations in humans is not established, although a possible role for adipokines has been invoked. Leptin, a proinflammatory adipokine, and adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory adipokine, are causally associated with asthma in mice. Although human studies are currently inconclusive, high-serum leptin and low-serum adiponectin concentrations predict asthma, independent of obesity, in select population groups, such as premenopausal women in the United States. In contradistinction, low-serum leptin and high-serum adiponectin concentrations are associated with stable COPD, although these associations are likely confounded by fat mass. Interestingly, leptin may promote systemic and airway inflammation in stable COPD patients. On the other hand, COPD may upregulate systemic and lung adiponectin expression. The precise mechanism and significance of the associations between these adipokines and lung disease at the current stage is confusing and frankly paradoxical in places. This area of research needs additional study that may open up novel therapeutic strategies for these lung diseases.

publication date

  • November 2009