Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Metabolically Healthy Obese and Diabetes

Past research has shown that there are obese people who are metabolically healthy. And while the idea that one can be obese and healthy is counterintuitive, apparently, these people exist. They are referred to as metabolically healthy obese or MHO. Although MHOs do exist, there are reasons to believe that the healthy state may not be long-lasting. And recent research has shown that metabolically healthy obese individuals have a higher risk of diabetes compared to normal weight individuals.

One scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging suggested that MHOs may be healthier than one might expect because they have a healthier level of inflammation. And that this healthier level of inflammation may actually protect the MHOs from disease. This is an interesting conclusion, since one of the problems with excess body fat is inflammation. Inflammation appears to play a role in insulin resistance which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

The connection between excess body fat and diabetes was highlighted in a recent study done in China. The investigators looked at the connection between MHOs and diabetes incidence in middle-aged and elderly people. They were also interested in knowing whether or not nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) played a role in that Association.

The investigators looked at over 17,000 individuals who did not have diabetes at the beginning of the study. The investigators defined metabolically healthy individuals as those with a BMI of 28 and zero or one of four metabolic comorbidities. These comorbidities were high blood pressure, increased triglycerides, hyperglycemia and low-cholesterol. The healthy MHOs were compared to metabolically healthy normal weight persons.

The investigators concluded that the MHO condition “was associated with increased incidence of diabetes in a middle-aged and elderly population, and the association did not differ by the presence or absence of NAFLD.” And in another study, researchers concluded that the MHO state is relatively unstable.

So, while some obese individuals may be healthy, in general, the healthy state may not last as long as a person of normal weight. The excess, harmful body fat may be detrimental in the long run.


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