The ever-increasing prevalence of obesity constitutes a major health problem worldwide. A subgroup of obese individuals has been described as “metabolically healthy obese” (MHO). In contrast to metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO), the MHO phenotype has a favorable risk profile. Despite this, the MHO phenotype is still sub-optimally characterized with respect to a comprehensive risk assessment. Our aim was to increase the understanding of metabolic alterations associated with healthy and unhealthy obesity.
In this cross-sectional study, men and women (18–70 years) with obesity (body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2) or normal weight (NW) (BMI ≤ 25 kg/m2) were classified with MHO (n = 9), MUO (n = 10) or NW (n = 11) according to weight, lipid profile and glycemic regulation. We characterized individuals by comprehensive metabolic profiling using a commercial available high-throughput proton NMR metabolomics platform. Plasma fatty acid profile, including short chain fatty acids, was measured using gas chromatography.
The concentrations of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), intermediate density lipoprotein (IDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) subclasses were overall significantly higher, and high density lipoprotein (HDL) subclasses lower in MUO compared with MHO. VLDL and IDL subclasses were significantly lower and HDL subclasses were higher in NW compared with MHO. The concentration of isoleucine, leucine and valine was significantly higher in MUO compared with MHO, and the concentration phenylalanine was lower in NW subjects compared with MHO. The fatty acid profile in MHO was overall more favorable compared with MUO.
Comprehensive metabolic profiling supports that MHO subjects have intermediate-stage cardiovascular disease risk marker profile compared with NW and MUO subjects.
Clinical trial registration number
NCT01034436, Fatty acid quality and overweight (FO-study).
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