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No such thing as ‘healthy’ obesity

Researchers are urging a rethink over the term ‘metabolically healthy obesity’ after linking it with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

 

Researchers are urging a rethink over the term ‘metabolically healthy obesity’ after linking it with increased risk of cardiovascular disease

 

obese
Those considered healthy obese were found to be at greater risk
of coronary heart disease. Picture: Science Photo Library

Researchers are urging a rethink over the term ‘metabolically healthy obesity’ after linking it with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Academics at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research used health records for 3.5 million British adults – who were initially free of CVD – to check development of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, heart failure or peripheral vascular disease.

3.5 million

health records were analysed for University of Birmingham study

Patients were divided into body mass index groups — underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese – and CVD development was compared with metabolic abnormalities such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia.

Those considered healthy obese – free of an abnormality – had a 49% higher risk of coronary heart disease, 7% higher risk of cerebrovascular disease and 96% increased risk of heart failure than normal weight, metabolically healthy individuals. Researchers also found that ‘normal’ weight individuals with one or more abnormalities had an increased risk of CVD.

Lead author Rishi Caleyachetty said: ‘So-called ‘metabolically healthy’ obesity is clearly not a harmless condition and the term should no longer be used in order to prevent misleading individuals that obesity can be healthy.’

Senior author Neil Thomas said clinicians should be aware that using excess weight as the main criteria for screening CVD risks could lead to a failure to identify metabolic abnormalities.


Caleyachetty R et al (2017) Metabolically healthy obese and incident cardiovascular disease events among 3.5 million men and women. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.07.763

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