'Fat but fit' are at increased risk of heart disease
Researchers have found that being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by up to 28 per cent compared to those with a healthy bodyweight, even if they have healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests being 'fat but fit' is a myth, and that people should aim to maintain a body weight within a healthy range.
Storing too much fat in the body is associated with a number of metabolic changes, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and altered cholesterol levels, which can lead to disease and poor health. However, previous studies have revealed a subset of overweight people who appear to lack the adverse health effects of excess weight, leading to them being classified as 'metabolically healthy obese' in the medical literature, and 'fat but fit' in the media.
Now, a group led by researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge has shown that despite an apparent clean bill of health, this overweight group is still at increased risk compared to those with a healthy weight. In the largest study of its kind to date, scientists used data from more than half a million people in 10 European countries -- taken from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) -- to show that excess weight is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, even when people have a healthy metabolic profile.
"Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors. Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor" said lead author Dr Camille Lassale, from Imperial's School of Public Health and now based at University College London.
In the study, published in the European Heart Journal, researchers looked at the link between excess weight and risk of CHD, a condition where not enough blood gets through to the heart due to clogged arteries, leading to heart attacks.