Vascular Health and Fitness Levels in Metabolically Healthy and Unhealthy Obese Young Adults


It is established that obesity is related to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), impaired vascular health, and other chronic diseases. Within the obese population, those that are metabolically healthy (MHO), however, are hypothesized to have lower CVD risk as compared to their metabolically unhealthy counterparts (MUHO), because of their lower levels of inflammation. However, research is limited examining whether vascular health differs between young adults classified as MHO and MUHO.

PURPOSE: We compared vascular health and fitness levels between young adult males with either MHO or MUHO.

METHODS: On separate days, 29 (16 MHO 28.4yrs old, 13 MUHO 25.8yrs old) male adults recruited from the Philadelphia suburban area came to the lab for testing. After an overnight fast, participants underwent carotid artery intima media thickness (IMT) ultrasound, brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD), fasted glucose/cholesterol testing, body composition (bioelectrical impedance), and blood pressure (BP) measurement. During another visit, participants completed VO2peak treadmill testing and had more BP measurements. In accordance with previous literature metabolic risk factors were defined as: BP ≥130/85 mmHg or on antihypertensives; fasting glucose ≥100 mg/dL or on antidiabetic medications; BMI ≥30kg/m2 or BF ≥25%; triglycerides ≥150 mg/dL; and HDL ≤40 mg/dL. Participants with less than two risk factors were considered MHO and those with two or more risk factors were considered MUHO.

RESULTS: We found that weight was greater (241.91±43.8 vs 210.43±33.8 lb, p<0.05) and fat mass was higher (85.28±31.0 vs 64.68±20.9 lb, p<0.05) in young adult males classified as MUHO compared to MHO. Also, fasted plasma glucose levels were higher (96.69±8.0 vs 87.25±6.4mg/dL, p<0.05) and triglyceride levels were higher (148.42±83.1 vs 93.80±27.9 mg/dL, p<0.05) in MUHO compared to MHO. No differences were found between groups for vascular health measures.

CONCLUSIONS: Although young adults with MUHO have impaired cardiovascular health compared to MHO, the population studied was too young to discern vascular health differences. Further studies should investigate inflammatory markers, like CRP, between adults with MUHO and MHO, as inflammation may be more indicative of CVD risk in younger obese people than FMD or IMT.



Publication Date


Journal Title

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise


Wolters Kluwer

Document Type



© 2016 American College of Sports Medicine