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OBJECTIVE: Some obese individuals have no cardiometabolic abnormalities; they are 'metabolically healthy, but obese' (MHO). Similarly, some non-obese individuals have cardiometabolic abnormalities, that is, 'metabolically at risk, normal weight' (MANW). Previous studies have suggested that early-onset obesity may be associated with MHO. We aimed to assess whether body mass index (BMI) in childhood and early-onset obesity are associated with MHO.
SETTING: General population longitudinal cohort study, Denmark.
PARTICIPANTS: From 362 200 young men (mean age 20) examined for Danish national service between 1943 and 1977, all obese men (BMI ≥31 kg/m(2), N=1930) were identified along with a random 1% sample of the others (N=3601). Our analysis includes 2392 of these men attending a research clinic in mid-life (mean age 42). For 613 of these men, data on childhood BMI are available. We summarised childhood BMI growth (7-13 years) using a multilevel model. Early-onset obesity was defined as obesity at examination for national service.
OUTCOME MEASUREMENT: We defined metabolic health at the mid-life clinic as non-fasting serum cholesterol <6.6 mmol/L, non-fasting glucose <8.39 mmol/L and pulse pressure <48 mm Hg. Participants were categorised into four groups according to their obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m(2)) and metabolic health in mid-life.
RESULTS: 297 of 1097 (27.1%) of obese men were metabolically healthy; 826 of 1295 (63.8%) non-obese men had at least one metabolic abnormality. There was no evidence that rapid BMI growth in childhood or early-onset obesity was associated with either MHO or the MANW phenotype, for example, among obese men in mid-life, the OR for MHO comparing early-onset obesity with non-early-onset obesity was 0.97 (95% CI 0.85 to 1.10).
CONCLUSIONS: We found no robust evidence that early-onset obesity or rapid BMI growth in childhood is protective for cardiometabolic health.