Body composition and coronary heart disease mortality--an obesity or a lean paradox?

Mayo Clin Proc. 2011 Sep;86(9):857-64. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2011.0092.


Objective: To determine the combined effects of body mass index (BMI) and body fat (BF) on prognosis in coronary heart disease (CHD) to better understand the obesity paradox.

Patients and methods: We studied 581 patients with CHD between January 1, 2000, and July 31, 2005, who were divided into low (<25) and high BMI (≥25), as well as low (≤25% men and ≤35% women) and high BF (>25% in men and >35% in women). Four groups were analyzed by total mortality during the 3-year follow-up by National Death Index: low BF/low BMI (n=119), high BF/low BMI (n=26), low BF/high BMI (n=125), and high BF/high BMI (n=311).

Results: During the 3-year follow-up, mortality was highest in the low BF/low BMI group (11%), which was significantly (P<.001) higher than that in the other 3 groups (3.9%, 3.2%, and 2.6%, respectively); using the high BF/high BMI group as a reference, the low BF/low BMI group had a 4.24-fold increase in mortality (confidence interval [CI], 1.76-10.23; P=.001). In multivariate logistic regression for mortality, when entered individually, both high BMI (odds ratio [OR], 0.79; CI, 0.69-0.90) and high BF (OR, 0.89; CI, 0.82-0.95) as continuous variables were independent predictors of better survival, whereas low BMI (OR, 3.60; CI, 1.37-9.47) and low BF (OR, 3.52; CI, 1.34-9.23) as categorical variables were independent predictors of higher mortality.

Conclusion: Although both low BF and low BMI are independent predictors of mortality in patients with CHD, only patients with combined low BF/low BMI appear to be at particularly high risk of mortality during follow-up. Studies are needed to determine optimal body composition in the secondary prevention of CHD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Causality
  • Cause of Death
  • Comorbidity
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis
  • Coronary Disease / mortality*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / mortality*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors