In a new study researchers found major weight loss appears to reverse most of the cardiovascular risks linked with obesity.
The findings suggest that the risk of high blood pressure and dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood) were similar in Americans who used to have obesity (but were now a healthy weight) and those who had always maintained a healthy weight.
However, although the risk of current type 2 diabetes lessened with weight loss, it remained elevated in people who formerly had obesity compared to those who had never had obesity.
More than 40% of adult Americans have obesity (BMI of more than 30kg/m²) and close to one in 10 is classed as having severe obesity. Bodyweight is directly linked to almost all heart risk factors.
As BMI increases, so do blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, other abnormal blood fats, blood sugar, and inflammation.
These changes increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.
In the study, the team analyzed heart risk factors in 20,271-non-elderly US adults (aged 20-69 years).
Adults who previously had obesity were on average older than those who never, or currently had obesity, and more likely to smoke cigarettes (36% vs 24% vs 19%).
The researchers found that the risk of high blood pressure and dyslipidemia were similar in those who used to have obesity and those who had always maintained a healthy weight.
Compared to those who were always healthy weight, people who used to have obesity had three-fold higher odds of diabetes than those who never had obesity; whilst people with current obesity were seven times as likely to experience diabetes.
Those who currently had obesity were also at three times greater odds of current high blood pressure.
The team says the key takeaway of this study is that weight loss is hard, but important, for cardiovascular health.
It’s no surprise that losing weight and keeping it off is hard. But if you do manage to lose weight, it can not only prevent but reverse significant health problems. The best time to get healthy is 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.
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The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. One author of the study is Professor Maia Smith.
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