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No such thing as lower heart risk for obese but metabolically healthy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Metabolic health no indication of heart risks

New research takes back what previous research has suggested - that it is possible to be obese, but if you're metabolically healthy you might not have to worry about heart attack. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine), investigators say overweight and obesity are independent risk factors for heart attack and heart disease even for those without metabolic syndrome.

New study contradicts previous reports

Past studies have suggested if you are obese and your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar are normal that you might not have to worry about health risks normally associated with higher body mass index.

The current study is a follow-up investigation that included 71,527 people from the general population in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Researchers Jørge G. Nordestgaard, M.D., D. M.Sc., and Mette Thomsen, M.D., from Herlev Hospital, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark used data to come to their conclusion that even metabolically healthy obese individuals are at risk for heart attack and ischemic heart disease (IHD).

The analysis showed higher risk of heart attack even for people considered otherwise metabolically healthy but who were obese, compared to normal weight individuals.

Obesity was associated with higher risk of heart disease for those with or without metabolic syndrome.

The study authors concluded obesity is a risk for heart attack that doesn’t rely on the presence of metabolic syndrome.

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Other health costs of obesity

It isn't just heart risks that are a concern linked to increasing waistlines. Obesity is associated with memory problems, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Obesity was linked to a 38 percent higher chance of heart attack and 64 percent greater risk of IHD.

The study helps clarify heart risks associated with obesity that was previously thought to be linked to metabolic syndrome, regardless of BMI.

The researchers identified 634 cases of heart attack and 1,781 cases of ischemic heart disease during the four-year follow-up.

Chandra L. Jackson, PhD, MS and Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH from the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in an accompanying editorial that metabolically healthy but obese people eventually develop metabolic syndrome. The finding is somewhat of a surprise but highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight.

JAMA Intern Med.
November 11, 2013.


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons