October 7, 2019
Metabolically Healthy Obesity
Have you heard anyone refer to “metabolically healthy obesity” — or MHO? The term refers to the small number of people with obesity that remain free from metabolic disorders typically associated with excess weight, such as type 2 diabetes. If you are someone who can be classified as having MHO, you may believe that attaining a normal weight isn’t all that important, but it is. Just because someone doesn’t have metabolic problems, this does not mean their obesity is safe. For example, a recent study found that ‘metabolically healthy’ obesity is associated with higher risk for a serious condition: Chronic Kidney Disease. The study adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that MHO is not a harmless condition.
Compared with normal-weight participants in the study, the adjusted difference for 5-year cumulative incidence of chronic kidney disease for participants with obesity was 6.7 cases per 1,000 people. For overweight participants, the difference was a notable 3.5 per 1,000. For underweight participants, the difference went in the other direction at -4.0 cases per 1,000. The association was even stronger for older adults. In participants 40 or older, the difference was 19.0 cases per 1,000 for obese participants, 9.4 per 1,000 for overweight participants, and -7.0 per 1,000 for underweight participants.
The researchers concluded that being overweight or obese was associated with increased chronic kidney disease incidence in young and middle-aged participants who would be classified as having ‘metabolically healthy’ obesity. These findings indicate that MHO is not a harmless condition and that obesity, regardless of metabolic abnormalities, can adversely affect body functions including renal. In addition, carrying excess weight can damage knee and hip joints, lead to sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and contribute to the development of several cancers. The bottom line is that obesity isn’t safe, even if it’s the ‘metabolically healthy’ kind. Studies such as this highlight the importance of doctors addressing the risks associated with obesity with all of their patients who hope to find stronger health.