People who are 'healthy' obese are at risk of heart disease

17 May 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

Person standing on a scale

New research shows that so called ‘metabolically healthy’ obese people are still at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart failure or stroke, than normal weight people.

The study, presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO), examined whether the risk of developing cardiovascular conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure, was different for normal weight people with no metabolic conditions or people with metabolically healthy obesity (MHO).

The authors, from the University of Birmingham, found that, compared to normal weight individuals with no metabolic abnormalities, individuals with MHO had a 50 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease; a 7 per cent increased risk of stroke or mini-stroke (TIA) and a doubled risk of heart failure.

What is 'metabolically healthy' obesity?

People with metabolically healthy obesity are clinically obese in terms of their body mass index (BMI), but do not have complications that usually come with obesity, such as abnormal blood fats, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

What we said

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“This is another study highlighting that, if you are overweight, you are more likely to suffer from heart disease. It’s not often that research on this scale and magnitude is able to clarify an age-old myth. These findings should be taken extremely seriously and I’d urge healthcare professionals to take heed.

"The NHS has its part to play in addressing this public health challenge and it’s important that advice is given about the risk of heart and circulatory disease, along with the lifestyle choices that can be made to reduce this risk. That includes not smoking, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and limiting alcohol intake to the recommended guidelines.

"But we all have a role to play. The government, retailers, food manufacturers and consumers must work together to help tackle this obesity epidemic."