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Not all obesity linked to heart risk

22nd June 2010

Some obese people are not at risk of heart disease or diabetes, according to a recent Dutch study.

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The researchers said that an obese person whose metabolism was healthy did not need to worry about heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

Obese people whose levels of cholesterol are not too high and whose blood pressure is normal do not have to worry about being unhealthy.

Study co-author André van Beek, of the Groningen University Medical Center, said that some obese people his team studied had a normal cardiovascular risk profile, and had no weight-related risk for heart and blood vessel disease.

The number of obese people whose weight does not increase their risk of heart disease or diabetes is small, however.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers looked at 1,325 obese people, all of whom had participated in a much larger study.

The age range of the participants was wide, and some were as young as 28, while others were as old as 75.

After monitoring the study participants' metabolism, the researchers concluded that only 90 of them were healthy.

The healthy obese people all had no history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

They also did not have any evidence of high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and none of them took cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The researchers kept monitoring the subjects for just under eight years, during which time one of the healthy obese people developed heart disease, which the researchers said was in keeping with people's usual rates of heart disease.

The researchers said that, although people who are obese may otherwise be healthy, they still had more joint disease and muscle complaints than people who weighed less.

Van Beek said that people's metabolic risk profile counted more than their body mass index, and that there was no such thing as a cardiovascular risk that did not ultimately come from abnormal metabolism.

Gregg C. Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California in Los Angeles, disagreed with the researchers' conclusions.

He said that, while the recent study did not find increased risk associated with obesity if no metabolic abnormalities were present, it was important to note that other studies with longer-term follow-up had shown that this was not the case.

Tae-Hwa Chun, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, also felt that the study's follow-up time was too short, and said that researchers clearly needed to know why some overweight and obese individuals were protected from metabolic deterioration and increased cardiovascular risk.

Fonarow said that long-term obesity imparted higher cardiovascular risk, even if metabolic abnormalities were not present at baseline, in other studies.

Chun said that people's event rate was so low in the study's short follow-up period that there was no statistical significance in the study's research.


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