The Metabolically Healthy But Obese Phenotype in African Americans


Otelio S. Randall, MD, Cardiology Division, Department of Medicine, Howard University Hospital, 2041 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20060


J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich).

Obesity has become one of the leading public health concerns in the United States and worldwide. While obesity is associated with the metabolic syndrome, some obese individuals do not possess the constellation of the metabolic abnormalities and are referred to as metabolically healthy but obese (MHO) persons. Limited data exist on the prevalence and characteristics of the MHO in African Americans. The authors studied 126 obese African Americans and defined the MHO phenotype as an individual with a body mass index ≥30 kg/m2, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ≥40 mg/dL, absence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and absence of arterial hypertension. The correlates of the MHO phenotype with anthropometrical and metabolic indices were examined, as well as the effect of age on these correlates. Results showed that 36 (28.5%) of the individuals were identified with the MHO phenotype. Waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were significantly lower (P<.05) in MHO than in non-MHO patients. While there were significant lower levels of low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides in MHO among patients younger than 40 years, the significance was lost among patients 40 years or older. This study indicates that increased WC and WHR may be early premetabolic syndrome markers in obese individuals and should warrant aggressive risk factor reduction therapy to prevent future development of related cardiovascular conditions.