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Low adiposity has been linked to elevated mortality from several causes including respiratory disease. However, this could arise from confounding or reverse causality. We explore the association between two measures of adiposity (BMI and WHR) with COPD in the British Women's Heart and Health Study including a detailed assessment of the potential for confounding and reverse causality for each adiposity measure. Low BMI was found to be associated with increased COPD risk while low WHR was not (OR = 2.2; 95% CI 1.3-3.1 versus OR = 1.2; 95% CI 0.7-1.6). Potential confounding variables (e.g. smoking) and markers of ill-health (e.g. unintentional weight loss) were found to be higher in low BMI but not in low WHR. Women with low BMI have a detrimental profile across a broad range of health markers compared to women with low WHR, and women with low WHR do not appear to have an elevated COPD risk, lending support to the hypothesis that WHR is a less confounded measure of adiposity than BMI. Low adiposity does not in itself appear to increase the risk of respiratory disease, and the apparent adverse consequences of low BMI may be due to reverse causation and confounding.