Prevalence of Metabolically Healthy but Overweight/Obese Phenotype and Its Association With Sedentary Time, Physical Activity, and Fitness

J Adolesc Health. 2017 Jul;61(1):107-114. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.01.018. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


Purpose: Childhood obesity is one of the major concerns in the last years due to the association with future health problems and all-cause mortality. However, there is a subset of adolescents with overweight/obesity who present a metabolic healthy profile. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of metabolically healthy but overweight/obese adolescents and whether sedentary time, physical activity, and fitness differ between metabolically healthy and nonmetabolically healthy phenotypes.

Methods: A subsample of 237 European adolescents from the HEalthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence study (n = 3,528, participation rate: 61.3%) with overweight/obesity were included. The study sample was not fully representative for the European adolescent population. Based on sex- and age-specific metabolic syndrome cutoff points for triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, and high-density cholesterol participants were classified as metabolically healthy or nonmetabolically healthy. Sedentary time, physical activity, and fitness were assessed by accelerometry and the Alpha battery, respectively.

Results: The prevalence of metabolically healthy status in adolescents with overweight and obesity was higher in girls (87%) than in boys (74%, p = .019), being similar when only obesity was considered. Sedentary time was lower in metabolically healthy overweight/obese than in nonmetabolically healthy participants (mean difference = 48.0 minutes, p = .012). Moderate and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were higher (p's < .05) in metabolically healthy than in nonmetabolically healthy adolescents with overweight/obesity (mean difference = 7.9 min/day and 10.9 min/day, respectively). No significant differences were found in fitness. Overall, these results persisted when only adolescents with obesity were included in the analyses.

Conclusions: Metabolically healthy adolescents with overweight/obesity are less sedentary and more active than their nonmetabolically healthy peers with overweight/obesity, yet consistent differences in fitness were not observed.

Keywords: Children; MHO; Metabolic status; Nonmetabolically healthy; Youth; non-MHO.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Overweight / blood
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Pediatric Obesity / blood
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Prevalence
  • Sedentary Behavior