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A multinational Andean genetic and health program. VIII. Lung function changes with migration between altitudes

, : A multinational Andean genetic and health program. VIII. Lung function changes with migration between altitudes. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 51(2): 183-195

Studies of lung function in high altitude populations have suggested the influence of hypoxic environment on the development of this characteristic independent of confounding variables such as ethnicity and habitual exercise. However, often the effect of altitude on vital capacity is greater in children than adults, suggesting that more than developmental adaptation is operative. Also selective migration could account for the similarity of migrants and permanent residents at a destination altitude. To explore these problems we studied the lung function (FVC, FEV1, PFR) of 377 individuals who had migrated between altitudes in northern Chile. Migrant measurements were adjusted to those of permanent residents of appropriate age, sex and height at the altitudes of origin and destination. The measurements were then related to ethnicity (Spanish-Aymara ancestry), occupation and permanence, the latter combining information on both age at migration to and length of stay at a destination altitude. Upward migration was associated with increased chest depth, FVC and FEV1, but not height or other chest measurements. Downward migration had no significant effect. The flow-dependent test PFR was so sensitive to observer variability and occupation that it was difficult to establish its relationship to permanence. Unlike the body measurements, lung function measurements (especially PFR) tended to deviate from permanent controls at the origin altitude in a direction suggestive of selective migration, nor was permanence itself independent of ethnicity and occupation. Because of these difficulties the question of developmental adaptation in lung function may not be answerable in cross-sectional studies like the present and previous efforts, but rather in longitudinal investigations in which the control is the individual him/herself.


PMID: 484717

DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330510205

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