Controversy exists surrounding the contribution of fitness and adiposity as determinants of the Metabolically Healthy Overweight (MHO) phenotype in youth. This study investigated the independent contribution of cardiorespiratory fitness and adiposity to the MHO phenotype among overweight and obese youth.


This cross-sectional study included 108 overweight and obese youth classified as MHO (no cardiometabolic risk factors) or non-MHO (≥1 cardiometabolic risk factor), based on age- and gender-specific cut-points for fasting glucose, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and hepatic steatosis.


Twenty-five percent of overweight and obese youth were classified as MHO. This phenotype was associated with lower BMI z-score (BMI z-score: 1.8 ± 0.3 vs 2.1 ± 0.4, P = .02) and waist circumference (99.7 ± 13.2 vs 106.1 ± 13.7 cm, P = .04) compared with non-MHO youth. When matched for fitness level and stratified by BMI z-score (1.6 ± 0.3 vs 2.4 ± 0.2), the prevalence of MHO was fourfold higher in the low BMI z-score group (27% vs 7%; P = .03). Multiple logistic regression analyses revealed that the best predictor of MHO was the absence of hepatic steatosis even after adjusting for waist circumference (odds ratio 0.57, 95% confidence interval 0.40–0.80) or BMI z-score (odds ratio 0.59, 95% confidence interval 0.43–0.80).


The MHO phenotype was present in 25% of overweight and obese youth and is strongly associated with lower levels of adiposity, and the absence of hepatic steatosis, but not with cardiorespiratory fitness.

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