Healthy obesity as an intermediate state of risk: a critical review

Joshua A Bell, Mark Hamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Obesity is a top public health priority but interventions to reverse the condition have had limited success. About one-in-three obese adults are free of metabolic risk factor clustering and are considered ‘healthy’, and much attention has focused on the implications of this state for obesity management.

Areas covered: We searched for individual studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses which examined correlates and outcomes of metabolically healthy obesity. We discuss the key roles of fat distribution and physical activity in determining healthy vs. unhealthy obesity and report a greatly increased risk of incident type 2 diabetes associated with healthy obesity vs. healthy normal weight, among other outcomes. We argue that despite inconsistencies in the definition, patterns across studies clearly show that healthy obesity is a state of intermediate disease risk.

Expert commentary: Given the current state of population-level evidence, we conclude that obesity and metabolic dysfunction are inseparable and that healthy obesity is best viewed only as a state of relative health but not of absolute health. We recommend that weight loss through energy restriction be a stand-alone target in addition to increased physical activity for minimising risk of future disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalExpert Review of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2016


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