The idea that obesity is harmless is a myth. The Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation draws attention to a Swedish study showing that obese people are at increased risk of developing narrowing of the coronary arteries.

The Heart-Lung Foundation wants to break the myth of healthy obesity. Archive image.
The Heart-Lung Foundation wants to break the myth of healthy obesity. Archive image.

The Swedish study that the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation draws attention to is based on studies of approximately 23,600 women and men with different BMIs. The researchers have investigated the coronary arteries of these with the help of computed tomography.

People with obesity, but without other known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, were then compared with normal-weight individuals who also had no risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The participants were between 50 and 64 years of age.

Increased risk of narrowing

The study showed that people with obesity had a higher degree of narrowing of the coronary arteries compared to normal weight. Threatening narrowing of the coronary arteries, which may lead to angina or myocardial infarction, was significantly more common in individuals with obesity than in normal weight.

"This is another nail in the coffin for the common misconception that there is "immortal" obesity. The study shows that people with obesity, but without other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, have an increased risk of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries. Something that we know can lead to heart attacks," says Lars Lind, professor of medicine at Uppsala University and the study's main author, in a press comment.

However, the researchers could not see that obesity led to an increased risk of carotid stenosis, a narrowing of the carotid artery.

Coming later

The theory of harmless obesity was launched more than 15 years ago and is based on the fact that individuals with obesity without other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, blood fat disorders, diabetes or prediabetes, would not be at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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

The results of the Swedish study published in the journal Atherosclerosis are based on data from the large population study Scapis with the aim of preventing and preventing cardiovascular disease.

Facts: Obesity and excess weight

Body mass index, or body mass index (BMI), is a measure of the relationship between body height and weight developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) It gives a rough picture of an adult's weight status.

BMI is calculated by dividing body weight (kilogram) by body length (meters) squared.

Underweight: BMI below 18.5.

Normal weight: BMI 18.5-24.9.

Overweight: BMI 25-29.9.

Obesity: BMI 30-39.9.

Severe obesity: BMI 40 or higher.

BMI does not take into account how much of the body weight is made up of muscles or fat, or how the fat is distributed in the body. This can lead, for example, to bodybuilders and elite athletes getting a high BMI that does not give a true picture of their health status. Similarly, very short or very tall people can get a misleading value, and for children the formula does not work at all.

Source: Public Health Authority and Finnish Food Authority