Background The processes that result in progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) remain enigmatic. Moreover, the course of this disease can be highly variable and difficult to accurately predict. We hypothesized analyses of body mass index (BMI), a simple, routine clinical measure, may also have prognostic value in these patients, and might provide mechanistic insights. We investigated the associations of BMI changes with outcome, plasma adipokines, and adaptive immune activation among IPF patients. Methods Data were analyzed in an IPF discovery cohort (n = 131) from the University of Pittsburgh, and findings confirmed in patients from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (n = 148). Plasma adipokines were measured by ELISA and T-cell phenotypes determined by flow cytometry. Results Transplant-free one-year survivals in subjects with the greatest rates of BMI decrements, as percentages of initial BMI (>0.68%/month), were worse than among those with more stable BMI in both discovery (HR = 1.8, 95%CI = 1.1-3.2, p = 0.038) and replication cohorts (HR = 2.5, 95%CI = 1.2-5.2, p = 0.02), when adjusted for age, baseline BMI, and pulmonary function. BMI decrements >0.68%/month were also associated with greater mortality after later lung transplantations (HR = 4.6, 95%CI = 1.7-12.5, p = 0.003). Circulating leptin and adiponectin levels correlated with BMI, but neither adipokine was prognostic per se. BMI decrements were significantly associated with increased proportions of circulating enddifferentiated (CD28null) CD4 T-cells (CD28%), a validated marker of repetitive T-cell activation and IPF prognoses. Conclusions IPF patients with greatest BMI decrements had worse outcomes, and this effect persisted after lung transplantation. Weight loss in these patients is a harbinger of poor prognoses, and may reflect an underlying systemic process, such as adaptive immune activation.