So-called healthy obese 'still face disease risks'
17th May 2017 – 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 preliminary findings by a team from the University of Birmingham are being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.
The research is based on a large electronic database of GPs' health records covering a 20-year period. They identified adults who did not have cardiovascular disease when they were first included in the programme.
The researchers divided the group according to their body mass index (BMI) and whether they had diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
The study examined the risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure or narrowing of the arteries for healthy obese people compared with normal weight people who were also free of other conditions.
They found that, compared to normal weight individuals with no other major health problems, obese people had a significantly higher risk of stroke and heart failure.
The study results should be treated with caution as they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Lead researcher Rishi Caleyachetty, an epidemiologist from The Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham says: "Preliminary findings from our study of 3.5 million adults in the UK showed that people who are obese and classified as 'metabolically healthy' (ie no metabolic abnormalities such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood fat level) can still be at risk of developing cardiovascular disease (such as heart attacks, stroke and heart failure)."
He explains: "Obesity can affect the heart through known risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood fat levels as well as inflammation.
"Excessive accumulation of fat tissue has also been suggested to lead to a variety of changes in heart structure and the way it performs can occur."