Swedish study: “Harmless obesity” a politically correct myth

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Published 25 January 2023 at 13.15

Health. New Swedish research provides strong evidence that so-called “harmless” obesity is a myth. People who are obese, but who have no other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, have an increased risk of narrowing of the coronary arteries of the heart compared to people of normal weight.

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The myth of “harmless obesity” is spread, among other things, by fat feminist so-called “body activists”.

But the population study Scapis means another nail in the coffin for this common misconception, according to Lars Lind , professor of medicine at Uppsala University, who is the main author of the study.

– The study shows that people with obesity, but without other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, have an increased risk of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries of the heart. Something that we know can lead to a heart attack, he says.

About 15 years ago, researchers in Canada coined the term “metabolically healthy obesity.” The theory concerns people with obesity, but who have no other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, blood lipid disorders, diabetes or prediabetes. According to the theory, this group does not have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, an assumption that was supported in initial studies.

However, later studies have shown that people with “metabolically healthy obesity” do have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease -vascular diseases, but that it takes longer for these diseases to develop than in individuals with both obesity and other risk factors.

To further study this phenomenon, Lars Lind and his research colleagues have examined the coronary arteries of 23,674 women and men between the ages of 50 and 64 using computed tomography. All participants are included in the large population study Scapis. People with obesity, but without other known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, were then compared with normal-weight people who also had no risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The study showed that people with obesity had a higher degree of narrowing of the heart coronary vessels compared to those of normal weight. Threatening narrowing of the coronary arteries, which risk leading to angina or heart attack, was significantly more common in individuals with obesity than in individuals of normal weight.

Scapis is a Swedish population study that recruits and investigates the heart and lung status of 30,000 randomly selected women and men between the ages of 50 and 64. The aim is to be able to identify individual risks for heart disease and prevent them before they occur. The study is a collaboration between six university hospitals in Sweden (in Gothenburg, Linköping, Malmö, Stockholm, Umeå and Uppsala) and is primarily financed by the Heart-Lung Foundation.