Select Page

In the developed countries, Italy included, obesity is increasing. In the same countries it is easier and easier to reach high altitude, rapidly by mechanical devices, for climbing and skiing. A rapid ascent and a 24-hour staying at altitudes more than 2500 m, can caus acute mountin sickness (AMS). A recent study, published on “Annals of Internal medicine” (Ann Intern Med 2003; 139: 253-257) focuses possible associations of obesity with AMS. 9 obese men (body mass index more than 30) and 10 nonobese men (body mass index less than 25) were studied for 24 hours at a simulated altitude of 3658 m.

The obese men more often developed AMS symptoms (7 obese versus 4 nonobese). The more frequent symptoms were headache (89%) and difficulty in sleeping (75%). Moreover the obese men had lower nocturnal oxygen saturation values than the nonobese men. These findings suggest thet impaired breathing can be a pathophysiologic mechanism for the increased levels of AMS in obese individuals.

Even if these results must be interpreted with caution bacause only a small number of people is involved and the altitude is simulated, without physical activity, an increased risk to develop AMS for obese people must be considered.

Share This