While obesity is associated with a myriad of health problems including increased risk for diabetes (type 2), high blood pressure and high cholesterol, there are two health conditions that obesity may actually have no direct effect on: heart attacks and premature death.
These surprising results were recently posted and based on a study that spanned over the course of 5 years plus a 10 year follow-up in Sweden. Over the course of those 15 years total, researchers gathered data on the health conditions and life span of about 4,000 twins. Twins are especially valued in scientific studies like these due to their very similar genetic make-ups. Within each pair of the 4,000 twins, there was one overweight or obese twin and the other twin was less heavy and/or non-obese.
In the end, the overweight or obese twin group had a smaller death rate (550) than the non-obese twin group (633), and the overweight or obese twin group had fewer heart attacks (203) than the non-obese twin group (209).
While the data is certainly interesting, the study has room for growth and further investigation. Researchers did not gather data on subjects’ blood pressure or cholesterol during the course of the study; both conditions are linked closely with heart attack risk and premature death. The more favorable statistics from the obese or overweight twin group may be less of an indication about a correlation between obesity and heart attacks, and may have more to do with a successful medical regimen for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Overall, it can be concluded from this study that while obesity causes a number of health problems, obesity itself is not directly correlated with a higher incidence of heart attacks since non-obese individuals experience the same and slightly higher degree of heart disease. The complications that arise from obesity, such as increased blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, are the more likely and concerning culprits in determining an individual’s risk for heart attacks and premature death, and these are health conditions that non-obese people are just as vulnerable to as well.