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Obesity Itself Increases Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

A study conducted by the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic examined data on almost 900,000 individuals as reported in five different studies and concluded that for each unit increase in body mass index (BMI), the risk of type 2 diabetes increased by 67% while the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) increased by 20%. They did not find an association between obesity and  stroke risk.

A press release by the study’s authors notes that the study is important because “we can conclude that it is not solely factors [associated with obesity] like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or lack of exercise that tend to come with obesity that are harmful — the excess fat itself is harmful….Patients may think their cardiovascular risk is mitigated if their other risk factors are normal or being treated, but this study suggests you cannot ignore the extra weight….Physicians should take heed and make sure they are counseling their patients about weight loss in a comprehensive and collaborative manner.”

They add that it’s “very important to recognize” that obesity is “not simply a lifestyle choice,” despite the contribution of lifestyle factors…”It is a disease, and there is a large genetic influence on your weight,” noting that “nearly 100 genetic variations” are associated with the development of obesity and subsequent heart disease risk.

They acknowledged, though, that the study’s research methodology “was supportive of a causal association; however, it did not prove causality.”

The study was recently published online at JAMA Network Open and summarized on the Medscape portal.

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