Obesity Phenotypes, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Diseases

Circ Res. 2020 May 22;126(11):1477-1500. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.120.316101. Epub 2020 May 21.


This review addresses the interplay between obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular diseases. It is proposed that obesity, generally defined by an excess of body fat causing prejudice to health, can no longer be evaluated solely by the body mass index (expressed in kg/m2) because it represents a heterogeneous entity. For instance, several cardiometabolic imaging studies have shown that some individuals who have a normal weight or who are overweight are at high risk if they have an excess of visceral adipose tissue-a condition often accompanied by accumulation of fat in normally lean tissues (ectopic fat deposition in liver, heart, skeletal muscle, etc). On the other hand, individuals who are overweight or obese can nevertheless be at much lower risk than expected when faced with excess energy intake if they have the ability to expand their subcutaneous adipose tissue mass, particularly in the gluteal-femoral area. Hence, excessive amounts of visceral adipose tissue and of ectopic fat largely define the cardiovascular disease risk of overweight and moderate obesity. There is also a rapidly expanding subgroup of patients characterized by a high accumulation of body fat (severe obesity). Severe obesity is characterized by specific additional cardiovascular health issues that should receive attention. Because of the difficulties of normalizing body fat content in patients with severe obesity, more aggressive treatments have been studied in this subgroup of individuals such as obesity surgery, also referred to as metabolic surgery. On the basis of the above, we propose that we should refer to obesities rather than obesity.

Keywords: body fat distribution; cardiovascular diseases; diabetes mellitus; heart failure; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / pathology*

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