Paradoxical protective effect of central obesity in patients with suspected stable coronary artery disease


  • Disclosure: The authors declared no conflict of interest.

  • Funding source: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.



Increased body mass index (BMI) has been paradoxically inversely associated with the presence of angiographic coronary artery disease (CAD). Central obesity measures, considered to be more appropriate for assessing obesity-related cardiovascular risk, have been little studied in relation to the presence of CAD. The aim was to investigate the association of central obesity with the presence of angiographic CAD as well as the prognostic significance of obesity measures in CAD prediction when added to other cardiovascular risk factors.

Design and Methods:

Patients with suspected stable CAD (n = 403, age 61 ± 10 years, 302 males) referred for diagnostic coronary angiography with documented anthropometric data were enrolled.


Significant angiographic CAD was found in 51% of patients. Both BMI (OR = 0.64 per 1 SD increase, P = 0.001) and waist circumference (WC) (OR = 0.54 per 1 SD increase, P < 0.001) were inversely associated with the presence of CAD even after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors. In subgroup analysis, BMI and WC were significantly inversely associated with the presence of CAD in males, non diabetics, patients >60 years old and patients with Framingham risk score (FRS) >20% (P < 0.01 for all). The addition of BMI or WC in FRS-based regression models improved prediction of CAD (P = 0.03 and P < 0.001 for BMI and WC respectively) without a significant difference between the two models (P = 0.08).


Central and overall obesity were independently associated with a reduced prevalence of angiographic CAD, lending further credence to the existence of the ‘obesity paradox’. Obesity measures may further improve risk discrimination for the presence of CAD when added in an established risk score such as FRS.