Diet Composition and Activity Level of at Risk and Metabolically Healthy Obese American Adults

Arlene L. Hankinson, Martha L. Daviglus, Linda Van Horn, Queenie Chan, Ian Brown, Elaine Holmes, Paul Elliott, Jeremiah Stamler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obesity often clusters with other major cardiovascular disease risk factors, yet a subset of the obese appears to be protected from these risks. Two obesity phenotypes are described, (i) "metabolically healthy" obese, broadly defined as body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m 2 and favorable levels of blood pressure, lipids, and glucose; and (ii) "at risk" obese, BMI ≥ 30 with unfavorable levels of these risk factors. More than 30% of obese American adults are metabolically healthy. Diet and activity determinants of obesity phenotypes are unclear. We hypothesized that metabolically healthy obese have more favorable behavioral factors, including less adverse diet composition and higher activity levels than at risk obese in the multi-ethnic group of 775 obese American adults ages 40-59 years from the International Population Study on Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) cohort. In gender-stratified analyses, mean values for diet composition and activity behavior variables, adjusted for age, race, and education, were compared between metabolically healthy and at risk obese. Nearly one in five (149/775 or 19%) of obese American INTERMAP participants were classified as metabolically healthy obese. Diet composition and most activity behaviors were similar between obesity phenotypes, although metabolically healthy obese women reported higher sleep duration than at risk obese women. These results do not support hypotheses that diet composition and/or physical activity account for the absence of cardiometabolic abnormalities in metabolically healthy obese.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 19 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology


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