There’s no such thing as “healthy obesity” – scientists say that people who are 30 pounds or more overweight developed metabolic syndrome within 10 years

People who are overweight should lose some weight even if they do not have high blood pressure or any other heart disease risk, according to scientists. This is because a study has found that people who are 30 pounds or more overweight are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome within 10 years. This also increases their risk of getting cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

In the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the research team aimed to identify if metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) at baseline remained stable or resulted in metabolic syndrome and raised the risk of cardiovascular disease. The team, led by researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, included 6,809 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis who were recruited from six sites in the U.S. They followed the participants for 12 years with a clinical evaluation done every two years.

Results showed that baseline MHO was not significantly associated with cardiovascular disease compared with normal weight. Nevertheless, almost 50 percent of the participants had metabolic syndrome during follow-up and had greater risks of cardiovascular disease than those with stable MHO or normal weight. The progression was linked to a higher risk for heart disease.

“Metabolically healthy obesity is not a stable or reliable indicator of future risk for cardiovascular disease. Right now, there isn’t any way to know which 50 percent will progress and which won’t,” explained Dr. Morgana Mongraw-Chaffin, assistant professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study.

Therefore, the researchers suggest that anyone with MHO or having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 to lose some weight, become more physically active, and make other healthy lifestyle changes to prevent developing metabolic syndrome.

“Healthy obesity” still increases cardiovascular risk

Another study proved that there is no such thing as “healthy obesity.” A study published in the journal The Lancet found that obese women are still at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, even if they have sustained good metabolic health for decades, compared to metabolically healthy women of normal weight. (Related: The success rate for returning to healthy weight after living a life of obesity is very low among people who follow the status quo.)

In conducting the study, researchers looked at the link between obesity and cardiovascular disease incidence in 90,257 women from the Nurses’ Health Study. They grouped the participants according to their BMI, metabolic health, and change in metabolic health status. They also followed them for 30 years between 1980 and 2010. Every two years, participants answered questionnaires to update their BMI and metabolic health status and to evaluate their lifestyle, health behavior, and medical history.

Results showed that 6,306 new cases of cardiovascular diseases were recorded during an average follow-up of 24 years. These included 3,304 heart attacks, and 3,080 strokes were recorded. Women of normal weight but who were metabolically unhealthy were about two-and-a-half times more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those women of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. That risk was even higher in women who were overweight and obese. In addition, those with MHO were at a 39 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also discovered that most “metabolically healthy obese” women became metabolically unhealthy and had a 57 percent greater cardiovascular disease risk over 20 years, even if they were normal weight.

The findings of the study indicated that obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, even if women develop any of the common metabolic diseases, such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes.

“Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events,” explained Matthias Schulze, a professor at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke and leader of the study.

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