Can you be both healthy and also overweight? Not really, confirms a major study presented this month at the European Congress on Obesity. The findings demonstrated that even obese people with perfectly healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are nonetheless at a significantly higher risk of heart disease than the general population, Medical News reports.
For the study, researchers at the University of Birmingham reviewed the medical records of more than 3.5 million adults living in the United Kingdom who had no prior history of cardiovascular disease. The team started by dividing this population into several groups, depending on their BMI (body mass index, a ratio of height to weight) and devised a scale of 0 to 3 to rank participants’ metabolic health. (Zero indicated healthy with normal blood pressure and cholesterol measurements; larger numbers represented increasing stages of metabolic abnormality.)
Next, researchers monitored the medical records of all patients in these groups from 1995 to 2015 for cardiovascular conditions. During the follow-up period, scientists reported that participants in the study population suffered 61,546 cases of coronary heart disease, 54,705 cases of stroke and mini-stroke, 25,254 cases of heart failure and 23,797 cases of peripheral vascular disease.
In addition, people who were designated obese at the beginning of the trial were found to be 96 percent more likely to experience heart failure and 49 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those of normal weight, regardless of their metabolic score. Also, scientists noted that people with obesity faced a 7 percent higher chance of having a stroke.
“The idea of being healthy obese is a myth,” said Rishi Caleyachetty, MBBS, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Institute of Applied Health Research and the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the study. “Our work shows that so-called ‘metabolically healthy’ obese individuals are still at a higher risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and heart failure than normal weight metabolically healthy individuals.”
In conclusion, researchers recommended that health professionals continue to urge their obese patients to lose weight, in spite of their apparent metabolic health. They also stressed that doctors should continue to treat obesity as a clinically categorized illness, not a lifestyle choice.
Click here to learn more about obesity in the Black community and why BMI scores may be biased against African-American body types.