Weighing scales

‘Fat but fit’ at increased risk of heart disease

Date: 17 August 2017

New research supported by NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Donor Health and Genomics at University of Cambridge has confirmed that being overweight increases the risk of heart disease by more than a quarter, irrespective of whether the person is otherwise healthy.

A study of more than half a million people in 10 European countries found that being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease by up to 28% compared with people who have a healthy body weight, even if they have healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Storing too much fat in the body is associated with metabolic changes, such as increased blood pressure and high blood sugar, that can lead to disease. Some studies have suggested that not all overweight people experience the ill effects of excess weight, leading to them being classified as ‘metabolically healthy obese’ in the medical literature and ‘fat but fit’ in the media.

This new research, led by Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, suggests overweight people are still at increased risk of heart disease compared with those with a healthy weight, even when people have a healthy metabolic profile.

Dr Ioanna Tzoulaki, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “I think there is no longer this concept of ‘healthy obese’. If anything, our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as ‘healthy’ haven't yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile. That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event such as a heart attack.”

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  • Summary:
    New research has confirmed has confirmed that being overweight increases the risk of heart disease by more than a quarter, irrespective of whether the person is otherwise healthy.
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  • Year of publication:
    2017
  • Specialty:
    • Cardiovascular Disease
    • Obesity
  • News filter:
    Research and Impact


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