No Such Thing As “Fat But Fit” for Heart Health: Study

An analysis from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggested that being overweight or obese still poses significant cardiovascular risks even if one exercises regularly.

The authors of the research letter used data from over 527,000 participants. Of those, 42% had normal wright, 41% were overweight, and 18% were obese. Participants received routine medical examinations as part of their normal health care coverage, with physician-directed examinations (from 2012-2016) collected as the final examinations. The authors assessed body mass index 9BMI) as well as leisure-time physical activity levels (and inactivity levels). Participants were categorized as inactive (no moderate or vigorous physical activity), insufficiently active (not meeting WHO minimum physical activity recommendations for adults, i.e. <150 min/week and <75 min/week in moderate and vigorous physical activity, respectively), or regularly active (≥150 min/week of moderate physical activity or ≥75 min/week of vigorous physical activity, or a combination thereof). Researchers also took diabetes prevalence, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia information as well. They used logistical regression to determine the link between each BMI/physical activity group and the prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

According to the results, being either regularly or insufficiently active provided cardiovascular protections compared to inactivity for all risk factors within each BMI category. They also reported, however, that regular/insufficient physical activity was not sufficient to compensate for the negative effects of overweight/obesity (who remained at higher risk for CVD compared to those with normal weight regardless of physical activity levels).

“Our study suggests that, although physical activity mitigates—at least partly—the detrimental effects of overweight/obesity on cardiovascular disease risk, excess body weight per se is associated with a remarkable increase in the prevalence of major risk factors, as reflected by approximately two-, five-, and four-fold higher odds for hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, and diabetes among active but obese individuals compared with their inactive peers with normal weight,” the researchers wrote. “[…] Weight loss per se should remain a primary target for health policies aimed at reducing CVD risk in people with overweight/obesity.”