Characteristics of metabolically obese normal-weight (MONW) subjects

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Feb;32(1):4-12. doi: 10.1139/h06-092.


The existence of a subgroup of normal-weight individuals displaying obesity-related phenotypic characteristics was first proposed in 1981. These individuals were identified as metabolically obese but normal weight (MONW). It was hypothesized that these individuals might be characterized by hyperinsulinemia and (or) insulin resistance, as well as by hypertriglyceridemia and high blood pressure despite having a body mass index (BMI) < 25 kg/m2. Such characteristics could confer upon MONW subjects a higher cardiovascular risk; however, scientific data on MONW subjects are scarce since only 9 publications are directly related to this topic. Despite differences in the criteria for identifying MONW subjects and the small number of subjects involved in most of these studies, their consistent results indicate that: (i) the prevalence of the MONW syndrome ranges between 5% and 45%, depending on the criteria used, age, BMI, and ethnicity; (ii) when compared with control subjects, MONW subjects display an altered insulin sensitivity, a higher abdominal and visceral adiposity, a more atherogenic lipid profile, a higher blood pressure, and a lower physical activity energy expenditure; and (iii) MONW subjects are at higher risks for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors