Background Recent studies report the importance of metabolic health beyond obesity. The aim of this study is to compare the risk for diabetes development according to different status of metabolic health and obesity over a median follow-up of 48.7 months. Methods 6,748 non-diabetic subjects (mean age 43 years) were divided into four groups according to the baseline metabolic health and obesity status: metabolically healthy non-obese (MHNO), metabolically healthy obese (MHO), metabolically unhealthy non-obese (MUHNO) and metabolically unhealthy obese (MUHO). Being metabolically healthy was defined by having less than 2 components among the 5 components, that is, high blood pressure, high fasting blood glucose, high triglyceride, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and being in the highest decile of homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index. Obesity status was assessed by body mass index (BMI) higher than 25 kg/m2. The development of diabetes was assessed annually from self-questionnaire, fasting glucose and HbA1c. Results At baseline, 45.3% of the subjects were MHNO, 11.3% were MHO, 21.7% were MUHNO, and 21.7% were MUHO. During a median follow-up of 48.7 months, 277 subject (4.1%) developed diabetes. The hazard ratio for diabetes development was 1.338 in MHO group (95% CI 0.67–2.672), 4.321 in MUHNO group (95% CI 2.702–6.910) and 5.994 in MUHO group (95% CI 3.561–10.085) when MHNO group was considered as the reference group. These results were similar after adjustment for the changes of the risk factors during the follow-up period. Conclusion The risk for future diabetes development was higher in metabolically unhealthy subgroups compared with those of metabolically healthy subjects regardless of obesity status.
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