Muscle Mass May Be Key to Preserving Lung Function in IPF

Muscle Mass May Be Key to Preserving Lung Function in IPF

A person’s fat-free mass index, a measure that is similar to body mass index (BMI) but takes into account overall muscle mass, is a significant predictor both of preserved lung function and survival in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients, a study published in the journal Respirology reports.

In the study, “Fat-free mass index predicts survival in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” researchers led by Dr. Yuji Tohda of the Department of Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Faculty of Medicine at Kindai University in Osaka, Japan, enrolled 44 patients with IPF. They assessed patients’ body composition, and examined the relationship between body composition and lung function, as measured by forced vital capacity (FVC), and survival.

A significant positive correlation was found between fat-free mass index (FFMI) and FVC, meaning that patients with greater muscle mass for their height also tended to have better lung function. Similarly, patients with a high FFMI had better carbon monoxide diffusion capacity in their lungs and could walk a longer distance in six minutes, a test used to measure exercise tolerance.

The researchers also found a negative correlation between FFMI and age. In other words, overall muscle mass decreased with age.

To estimate how muscle mass might affect survival, the researchers observed patients for an average of 2.3 years (at maximum, for 3.4 years). They found that several variables — including a higher FFMI — were significantly associated with survival, although BMI [a measure of weight against height, that does not distinguish between sources of body weight, like fat or muscle] was not.

“Taking account of not only lung function but also fat-free mass was revealed to be important in IPF practice. Methods for increasing or preserving muscle mass in IPF patients should be further investigated,” Osamu Nishiyama, the study’s first author, said in a press release.

IPF is  characterized by progressive worsening of lung function. FVC is a significant predictor of survival and is recognized as the most important marker of the disease. The predictive potential of FFMI is only beginning to be examined in-depth in IPF patients.


  1. Roger says:

    Why does everything in your newsletter have to do with IPF? What if I just have PF? Am I just reading this information for nothing?

  2. Tom Vierzba says:

    I was diagnosed as having IPF via a Video Assisted Thoroscopic Lung Biopsy in the fall of 2007 at the age of 59. As a form of self-managed respiratory therapy I became an active walker and even though I live at an altitude above 7000 feet in elevation, I walk approximately 40 miles per week, the last two years with supplemental oxygen. Additionally, in my 6-minute walk test I consistently exceed 2200 feet (without supplemental O2) when tested at National Jewish Health in Denver. I agree with the assessment that staying fit/good muscle mass is very important to long-term survival when contending with IPF.

  3. Elaine says:

    Diagnoised with PF in Nov, 2011. In Aug. 2016 diagnoised with PF still but also have Microbacterium Avian Complex. I am on oxygen, but when sitting for long periods of time, I take it off. Can you give me your thoughts of life span. I am now 66.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      Hi Elaine. We are glad to hear you are doing ok. As far as life span we at PFNews do not feel very comfortable giving you any numbers on that. It seems, from what you say, that you are doing fairly well.

      • Elaine says:

        My comment was not about myself, but about my husband. His weight is continuesly going down. I can see his ribs. He probably weighs 100lbs or less. He eats 2 meals a day. Breakfast and dinner(supper, to us). He doesn’t seem be gaining any weight. He was in the hospital a few months ago twice in 3 weeks time span. He was admitted to hospice when he was dismissed from hospital. Thanks for any help.

  4. Eileen P says:

    He probably needs to notify his doctors of the weight loss so they can intervene as far as nutrition goes. He is on Hospice. Hospice is a end of life program that works with family and patients to work through the end of life process. I would talk to the Hospice nurse she is thre to help you.

    • Elaine says:

      The hospice nurse is a lot of help. We have tried a supplement to his diet and everything upsets his stomach. I just want God to let me live long enough to take care of my husband and then I will be ready to meet him in heaven. Prayers help me go from day to day.

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