Obesity, metabolic risk and adherence to healthy lifestyle behaviours: prospective cohort study in the UK Biobank
Heath L., Jebb SA., Aveyard P., Piernas C.
BACKGROUND: Contested evidence suggests that obesity confers no risk to health in people who have a healthy lifestyle, particularly if there are no metabolic complications of obesity. The aim was to examine the association between adherence to lifestyle recommendations and the absence of metabolic complications on the incident or fatal cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality across different categories of body mass index (BMI). METHODS: This contemporary prospective cohort study included 339,902 adults without cardiovascular disease at baseline, recruited between 2006 and 2010 from the UK Biobank and followed until 2018-2020. The main exposures were four healthy lifestyle behaviours: never smoker, alcohol intake ≤ 112g/ week, 150 min moderate physical activity or 75 min vigorous activity/week, ≥ 5 servings of fruit or vegetables/day, and we assessed these overall and across the BMI groups. Metabolic complications of excess adiposity were hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidaemia, and we examined whether obesity was associated with increased risk in the absence of these complications. The outcomes were all-cause mortality, death from, and incident cardiovascular disease (CVD). RESULTS: Individuals who met four lifestyle recommendations but had excess weight had higher all-cause mortality; for BMI 30-34.9 kg/m2, the hazard ratio (HR) was 1.42 (95% confidence interval 1.20 to 1.68), and for BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2, HR was 2.17 (95% CI 1.71 to 2.76). The risk was lower, but still increased for people with no metabolic complications; for all-cause mortality, BMI 30-34.9 kg/m2 had an HR of 1.09 (95% CI 0.99 to 1.21), and BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2 had an HR of 1.44 (95% CI 1.19 to 1.74) for all-cause mortality. Similar patterns were found for incident and fatal CVD. CONCLUSIONS: Meeting healthy lifestyle recommendations, or the absence of metabolic complications of obesity offsets some, but not all, of the risk of subsequent CVD, and premature mortality in people with overweight or obesity. Offering support to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and to adopt healthy behaviours are likely to be important components in effective preventative healthcare.