A newly published study reveals that obesity in the absence of other metabolic risk factors does not, by itself, increase the individual’s risk of death. The research comes out of York University’s Faculty of Health, which found that obesity in the absence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and similar isn’t associated with increased mortality. The findings are based on a study covering more than 54,000 adults who had either obesity by itself or obesity with other metabolic risk factors.
The findings contradict past studies, many of which have highlighted obesity as a risk factor for early death. The study’s lead Jennifer Kuk acknowledged that, explaining:
This is in contrast with most of the literature and we think this is because most studies have defined metabolic healthy obesity as having up to one metabolic risk factor. This is clearly problematic, as hypertension alone increases your mortality risk and past literature would have called these patients with obesity and hypertension, ‘healthy’. This is likely why most studies have reported that ‘healthy’ obesity is still related with higher mortality risk.
Certain conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar are associated with a higher mortality risk, but the researchers found that obesity — in the absence of these issues and others like them — doesn’t have the same inherent risk. Unfortunately, the number of obese individuals with no other risk factors was found to be low at only 1 out of 20.
It’s important to note that while the study found no link between “healthy” obesity and mortality risk, other past studies have shown that obesity itself increases one’s odds of developing a risk factor. The NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease lists obesity itself as a risk factor for developing high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes, among many other conditions.
The study warns:
Obesity in the absence of metabolic abnormalities may not be associated with higher risk for all‐cause mortality compared to lean healthy individuals. Conversely, elevation of even a single metabolic risk factor is associated with increased mortality risk.