Even 'healthy obesity' increases risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes - study

obese person on scales
Authors are calling for the term to no longer be used in a clinical setting. Photo credit: Getty Images.

People who have a healthy metabolism despite being obese are still at a heightened risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease, according to new study. 

Researchers examined the health data of nearly 400,000 UK citizens over a decade to determine whether there were health risks associated to obesity even if a person still has normal blood sugar levels, blood pressure and insulin. 

Published in journal Diabetologia this month, the study found metabolically healthy people with obesity - compared to metabolically healthy people without obesity - were significantly more likely to have type 2 diabetes, suffer heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, respiratory disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"Particularly worth noting is that people with metabolically healthy obesity had a higher risk of heart failure and respiratory disease than metabolically unhealthy participants without obesity," the authors said. 

Those considered to be 'healthily' obese are people who have normal blood pressure, favourable blood fats, little or no systemic inflammation, and a healthy level of insulin. This occurrence is estimated to be 3 - 22 percent of the obese population. 

It is estimated that globally there are over 300 million people with obesity, and if current trends continue, likely over 1 billion people by 2030. 

The ongoing global epidemics of type 2 diabetes (T2D), hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and many other serious health problems are linked with the weight condition.

"Weight management could be beneficial to all people with obesity irrespective of their metabolic profile," the authors of the study said. 

"The term 'metabolically healthy obesity' should be avoided in clinical medicine as it is misleading, and different strategies for defining risk should be explored."