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BACKGROUND: Metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) and its transition to unhealthy metabolic status have been associated with risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Western populations. However, it is unclear to what extent metabolic health changes over time and whether such transition affects risks of subtypes of CVD in Chinese adults. We aimed to examine the association of metabolic health status and its transition with risks of subtypes of vascular disease across body mass index (BMI) categories. METHODS AND FINDINGS: The China Kadoorie Biobank was conducted during 25 June 2004 to 15 July 2008 in 5 urban (Harbin, Qingdao, Suzhou, Liuzhou, and Haikou) and 5 rural (Henan, Gansu, Sichuan, Zhejiang, and Hunan) regions across China. BMI and metabolic health information were collected. We classified participants into BMI categories: normal weight (BMI 18.5-23.9 kg/m²), overweight (BMI 24.0-27.9 kg/m²), and obese (BMI ≥ 28 kg/m²). Metabolic health was defined as meeting less than 2 of the following 4 criteria (elevated waist circumference, hypertension, elevated plasma glucose level, and dyslipidemia). The changes in obesity and metabolic health status were defined from baseline to the second resurvey with combination of overweight and obesity. Among the 458,246 participants with complete information and no history of CVD and cancer, the mean age at baseline was 50.9 (SD 10.4) years, and 40.8% were men, and 29.0% were current smokers. During a median 10.0 years of follow-up, 52,251 major vascular events (MVEs), including 7,326 major coronary events (MCEs), 37,992 ischemic heart disease (IHD), and 42,951 strokes were recorded. Compared with metabolically healthy normal weight (MHN), baseline MHO was associated with higher hazard ratios (HRs) for all types of CVD; however, almost 40% of those participants transitioned to metabolically unhealthy status. Stable metabolically unhealthy overweight or obesity (MUOO) (HR 2.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.00-2.47, p < 0.001) and transition from metabolically healthy to unhealthy status (HR 1.53, 1.34-1.75, p < 0.001) were associated with higher risk for MVE, compared with stable healthy normal weight. Similar patterns were observed for MCE, IHD, and stroke. Limitations of the analysis included lack of measurement of lipid components, fasting plasma glucose, and visceral fat, and there might be possible misclassification. CONCLUSIONS: Among Chinese adults, MHO individuals have increased risks of MVE. Obesity remains a risk factor for CVD independent of major metabolic factors. Our data further suggest that metabolic health is a transient state for a large proportion of Chinese adults, with the highest vascular risk among those remained MUOO.

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Journal article


PLoS Med

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