'Healthy' obese people still at higher risk of CVD events

Person on scales

Person on scales

The new study, from the University of Birmingham, involved 3.5 million people, approximately 61,000 of whom developed coronary heart disease.

Debate has long raged on whether people can be "healthy obese" or "fat but fit", but the study of 3.5 million Brits found that obese people have an increased risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes compared to those of a normal weight.

To determine metabolic health, they divided the population into groups according to BMI and the presence or absence of 3 metabolic abnormalities (diabetes, high blood pressure [hypertension], and abnormal blood fats [hyperlipidemia]) which were added together to create a metabolic abnormalities score (0, 1, 2 and 3). The claim may be the final nail in the coffin for the claim that it is possible to be obese but still metabolically healthy or "fat but fit", as it's more commonly known. "Metabolically healthy obese individuals are at higher risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and heart failure than normal weight metabolically healthy individuals". They had a 7% increased risk of cerebrovascular disease - problems affecting the blood supply to the brain - which can cause a stroke, and double the risk of heart failure.

People who are obese but free of other health complications may still be at a higher risk of heart disease and strokes than "normal" weight people, according to a study.

The findings held true also when factors such as smoking were taken into account.

What lead author Dr. Rishi Caleyachetty and his colleagues discovered was that individuals who had a BMI of at least 30 at the start of the study were 50 percent more likely to contract coronary heart disease than those considered to be at a healthy weight.

They found "having excess fat increases the risk of suffering heart disease by half - even when blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal", says the Daily Telegraph.

In addition, excluding smokers, those with metabolically healthy obesity had an 11% higher risk of developing peripheral vascular disease.

There is a point that weightlifters could be healthy and yet have a BMI that suggested they were obese.

The researchers also found that the risk of cardiovascular disease events in obese individuals increased if the individuals had more metabolic abnormalities present.

He continued: "The priority of health professionals should be to promote and facilitate weight loss among obese persons, regardless of the presence or absence of metabolic abnormalities".

"Metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and it would be incorrect to think so".

The issue was further explored at the European Congress on Obesity which concluded that the term "fat but fit" was a fleeting theory which based its legitimacy on obese people being okay with extra weight as long as their metabolic factors (blood pressure and blood-sugar levels) were in check.

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