Obese people who exercise regularly are still at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease, a study warns.
Experts from the University of Glasgow studied people who were overweight but had a normal metabolic profile, a combination known as “metabolically healthy obesity” (MHO).
People with MHO have a body mass index of 30 or higher, but lack systemic inflammation, problematic blood lipids, and insulin problems that often occur with obesity.
Experts have calculated that MHO can occur between 3 and 22 percent in the general population.
The team found that metabolically healthy obesity increased the risk of various health problems compared to people with a normal BMI.
For example, it increases the risk of type 2 diabetes 4.3 times and results in a whopping 76 percent increase in the risk of heart failure.
Obese people who exercise regularly are still at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease, study warns (stock image)
The study was conducted by the University of Glasgow epidemiologist Frederick Ho and his colleagues.
“People with metabolically healthy obesity are not ‘healthy” because they are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, heart failure and respiratory disease than people without obesity with a normal metabolic profile, “they wrote.
“Weight management could be beneficial for all obese people, regardless of their metabolic profile.”
‘The term’ metabolically healthy obesity ‘should be avoided in clinical medicine as it is misleading and different strategies for risk definition should be explored.’
In their study, the researchers monitored 381,363 people – all of whom were either healthy, overweight, or obese.
All participants were part of the UK Biobank Project, a large-scale study that gathered detailed genetic and health information from half a million volunteers.
The subjects were divided into one of four categories – either metabolically healthy overweight (MHO), metabolically unhealthy overweight (MUO), metabolically healthy non-obesity (MHN), or metabolically unhealthy non-obesity (MUN).
The team found that the MHO people in the study were generally younger, watched less TV, were more educated, had more red and processed meat, and were less likely to be male and not white than MUO participants.
In addition, MHO participants had a 4.3 times higher risk of type 2 diabetes, an 18 percent higher risk of heart attack or stroke, and a 76 percent higher risk of heart failure than metabolically healthy participants without obesity.
Metabolically healthy obesity also went down with a 28 percent increase in the risk of respiratory disease and a 19 percent increase in the likelihood of suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Compared to metabolically unhealthy people without obesity, those classified as MHO were also 28 percent more likely to have heart failure.
“In general, cardiovascular and respiratory outcomes rates were highest in MUO, followed by MUN and MHO, with the exception of heart failure and fatal heart failure and respiratory disease,” the researchers found.
“For these results, people with MHO had higher rates than those with MUN.”
“People with metabolically healthy obesity were at significantly higher risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke, heart failure, respiratory disease, and all-cause mortality compared to [MHN people] . ‘
“It is particularly noteworthy that people with metabolically healthy obesity were at a higher risk of heart failure and respiratory diseases than those who were metabolically unhealthy without obesity.”
In addition, the team found that – in a subset of participants they followed up with – a third of the original MHO individuals became metabolically unhealthy within 3-5 years.
The full results of the study were published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Obesity: Adults with a BMI over 30 are considered obese
An adult with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
The BMI of a healthy person – calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in meters and the answer again by the height – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
In children, obesity is defined in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare adolescents with their peers.
For example, if a three month old baby is in the 40th percentile, it means that 40 percent of three month old babies weigh the same or less than that baby.
About 58 percent of women and 68 percent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The state costs the NHS around £ 6.1 billion each year from its budget of around £ 124.7 billion.
This is due to obesity, which increases a person’s risk for a range of life-threatening conditions.
These conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness, and even limb amputation.
Research has shown that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK is occupied by a diabetic patient.
Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people in the UK each year – making it the number one killer.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different types of cancer.
This includes the breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their life.
Research has shown that in children, 70 percent of obese teenagers have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which puts them at risk for heart disease.
Overweight children are also significantly more likely to become overweight adults.
And when children are overweight, their adult obesity is often more severe.
Up to one in five children in the UK start school with overweight or obesity, which increases to one in three by the age of 10.