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Obesity, weight reduction, and cardiovascular disease

Elizabeth Jackson, MD, MPH
Geoffrey Barnes, MD, MSc
Section Editor
Christopher P Cannon, MD
Deputy Editor
Brian C Downey, MD, FACC


Obesity is an expanding public health problem worldwide, creating a global health epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980 with 1.5 billion adults considered obese in 2008 [1,2].

In the United States, 34 percent of US adults aged 20 years and over are overweight, 34 percent are obese, and 6 percent are extremely obese [3].

In Australia, 54 percent of the population is considered overweight, while 18 percent are obese [4].

In China nearly one-quarter of the country's total population of 1.3 billion is now overweight [5].

Obesity has long been associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). In a meta-analysis of studies assessing the impact of body weight on CHD, there was a 29 percent increase in CHD for each five-unit increase in body mass index (BMI) (table 1A and table 1B) [6]. The risk of CHD in obese and overweight persons is compounded by the frequent coexistence of other CHD risk factors such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. How much of the risk is due to obesity alone has been uncertain. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which obesity (particularly abdominal obesity) cause or accelerate coronary atherogenesis are also uncertain.

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 16, 2016.
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