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New Study Finds Increased COPD Risk in “Metabolically Healthy” Obese People

092021image006A new study from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing indicates that “healthy obesity” is a myth, as even those individuals who are considered metabolically healthy are at a higher risk of developing heart and respiratory diseases including COPD.

Metabolic health refers to things like whether a person has high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and high blood sugar, which are common issues that arrive in cases of obesity. Researchers found that metabolically healthy obese adults still had a 28% greater chance of developing a respiratory disease and 19% more likely to suffer COPD compared to their healthy non-obese counterparts.

The study, published in Diabetologia, looked at the association between metabolically healthy obese (MHO) and all-cause mortality, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke, heart failure and respiratory diseases including COPD. The authors analyzed more than 11 years of data of 381,363 participants in the UK Biobank project who were classified as metabolically healthy non-obese (MHN), metabolically unhealthy non-obese (MUN) and MHO.

They found that MHO individuals were generally younger, watched less television, exercised more, had higher education level, lower deprivation index, higher red and processed meat intake, and were less likely to be male and non-white than participants who were MUO. Yet, when compared to MHN participants, they were 4.3 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, 18% more likely to suffer heart attack or stroke, and had a 76% higher risk of heart failure.

Their findings led researchers to conclude that people with MHO “are not ‘healthy’ as they are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, heart failure, and respiratory diseases compared with people without obesity who have a normal metabolic profile.”

“Weight management,” they add, “could be beneficial to all people with obesity irrespective of their metabolic profile. The term ‘metabolically healthy obesity’ should be avoided in clinical medicine as it is misleading, and different strategies for defining risk should be explored.”

Added Insights from Dr. Nair: As we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, obesity can lead to some degree of immunocompromise, making one more susceptible to illness. Excessive weight can have negative effects on a patient’s overall health in many ways. Thus, controlling one’s weight can help improve quality of life for those with COPD.

Read more on the findings on Eureka Alert.

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