Usually, obesity is a risk factor for poor health, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Now, researchers are looking at what it means to be obese but still healthy. In general, metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) means that a person is obese, but does not have higher than average chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. A person with metabolically healthy obesity has a body mass index (BMI) over 30, but they do not have metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol).

New definition of metabolically healthy obesity

There is a new definition of “metabolically healthy obesity.” A team of researchers from Germany created a new definition using data from 12,341 people aged 18 – 75 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the U.S. and 374,079 people from the U.K. Biobank. There are 3 parts to the new definition:

  • Systolic blood pressure less than 130 mm Hg (without medication)
  • Waist-to-hip ratio less than 0.95 for women and less than 1.03 for men
  • No type 2 diabetes

Waist-to-hip ratio

There are many ways to measure body fat. However, researchers discovered that waist-to-hip ratio is the best measurement for defining metabolically healthy obesity. Waist-to-hip ratio is the distance around the waist divided by the distance around the hips. Using waist-to-hip ratio helps us identify people who are obese according to their BMI, but who are not at an increased risk of death. Creating a standard definition is an important first step in understanding different obesity types and traits.


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