New study challenges the idea that it might be possible to be obese but not at increased risk of heart disease, otherwise known as the "obesity paradox". The study which comprised of nearly 300,000 people found that the risk of heart and blood vessel problems increases when the body mass index increases beyond 22-23 kg/m2. The study is published inEuropean Heart Journal. Moreover, the risk also increases steadily the more fat a person carries around their waist.
‘The risk of heart and blood vessel problems, such as heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure, increases as BMI increases beyond 22-23 kg/m2’The study was conducted in 296,535 adults of white European descent who are taking part in the UK Biobank study, and who were healthy at the time they enrolled with the study. UK Biobank recruited from 2006 to 2010, and follow-up data on participants were available up to 2015 for this latest analysis.
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Researchers at the University of Glasgow (UK) led by Dr Stamatina Iliodromiti, a clinical lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology and MRC Fellow, found that people with a BMI between 22-23 kg/m2 had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). As
However, the authors of the EHJ study say their results refute these previous, conflicting findings. "Any public misconception of a potential ’protective’ effect of fat on heart and stroke risks should be challenged," said Dr Iliodromiti.
"By maintaining a healthy BMI of around 22-23 kg/m2, healthy people can minimise their risk of developing or dying from heart disease. In terms of other adiposity measures, the less fat, especially around their abdomen, they have, the lower the risk of future heart disease."
The researchers say their findings may have implications for guidelines on preventing and managing cardiovascular disease.
"Even within the normal BMI category of between18.5-25 kg/m2, the risk of CVD increases beyond a BMI of 22-23 kg/m2. The other adiposity measures show that the leaner the person the lower the risk of CVD, and this must be a public message, that healthy individuals should maintain a lean physique to minimise their risk of CVD," concluded Dr Iliodromiti.
The researchers suggest that the previous confusion over the "obesity paradox" may be due to many factors that can confound results of studies. For instance, smoking changes the distribution of fat in the body, smokers may have lower weight as smoking depresses appetites and so BMI tends to be lower. Another reason could be that some people have existing but undiagnosed disease, which can often lower their weight but also makes them more likely to die prematurely.