Metabolically Healthy Obesity, Transition to Metabolic Syndrome, and Cardiovascular Risk

Morgana Mongraw-Chaffin, Meredith C. Foster, Cheryl A.M. Anderson, Gregory L. Burke, Nowreen Haq, Rita R. Kalyani, Pamela Ouyang, Christopher T. Sibley, Russell Tracy, Mark Woodward, Dhananjay Vaidya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background: Debate over the cardiometabolic risk associated with metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) continues. Many studies have investigated this relationship by examining MHO at baseline with longitudinal follow-up, with inconsistent results. Objectives: The authors hypothesized that MHO at baseline is transient and that transition to metabolic syndrome (MetS) and duration of MetS explains heterogeneity in incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality. Methods: Among 6,809 participants of the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) the authors used Cox proportional hazards and logistic regression models to investigate the joint association of obesity (≥30 kg/m 2 ) and MetS (International Diabetes Federation consensus definition) with CVD and mortality across a median of 12.2 years. We tested for interaction and conducted sensitivity analyses for a number of conditions. Results: Compared with metabolically healthy normal weight, baseline MHO was not significantly associated with incident CVD; however, almost one-half of those participants developed MetS during follow-up (unstable MHO). Those who had unstable MHO had increased odds of CVD (odds ratio [OR]: 1.60; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.14 to 2.25), compared with those with stable MHO or healthy normal weight. Dose response for duration of MetS was significantly and linearly associated with CVD (1 visit with MetS OR: 1.62; 95% CI: 1.27 to 2.07; 2 visits, OR: 1.92; 95% CI: 1.48 to 2.49; 3+ visits, OR: 2.33; 95% CI: 1.89 to 2.87; p value for trend <0.001) and MetS mediated approximately 62% (44% to 100%) of the relationship between obesity at any point during follow-up and CVD. Conclusions: Metabolically healthy obesity is not a stable or reliable indicator of future risk for CVD. Weight loss and lifestyle management for CVD risk factors should be recommended to all individuals with obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1857-1865
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • cardiovascular disease
  • epidemiology
  • metabolic syndrome
  • metabolically healthy obesity
  • mortality
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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