Metabolically healthy obesity: different prevalences using different criteria

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Oct;64(10):1043-51. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.114. Epub 2010 Jul 14.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) according to different definitions.

Methods: Population-based sample of 2803 women and 2557 men participated in the study. Metabolic abnormalities were defined using six sets of criteria, which included different combinations of the following: waist; blood pressure; total, high-density lipoprotein or low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol; triglycerides; fasting glucose; homeostasis model assessment; high-sensitivity C-reactive protein; personal history of cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases. For each set, prevalence of MHO was assessed for body mass index (BMI); waist or percent body fat.

Results: Among obese (BMI 30 kg/m(2)) participants, prevalence of MHO ranged between 3.3 and 32.1% in men and between 11.4 and 43.3% in women according to the criteria used. Using abdominal obesity, prevalence of MHO ranged between 5.7 and 36.7% (men) and 12.2 and 57.5% (women). Using percent body fat led to a prevalence of MHO ranging between 6.4 and 43.1% (men) and 12.0 and 55.5% (women). MHO participants had a lower odd of presenting a family history of type 2 diabetes. After multivariate adjustment, the odds of presenting with MHO decreased with increasing age, whereas no relationship was found with gender, alcohol consumption or tobacco smoking using most sets of criteria. Physical activity was positively related, whereas increased waist was negatively related with BMI-defined MHO.

Conclusion: MHO prevalence varies considerably according to the criteria used, underscoring the need for a standard definition of this metabolic entity. Physical activity increases the likelihood of presenting with MHO, and MHO is associated with a lower prevalence of family history of type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity* / classification
  • Obesity* / complications
  • Obesity* / diagnosis
  • Obesity* / metabolism
  • Obesity, Abdominal / complications
  • Obesity, Abdominal / metabolism
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult