Only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy

Only 1 in 8 Americans is at optimal metabolic health, leaving a vast 88% that is metabolically unhealthy, according to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Metabolic health refers to having optimal levels of the following five factors without needing medications: blood glucose, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

People with poor metabolic health are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

For the study, researchers examined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 8,721 people in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016.

Metabolic health was shown to be linked to weight and physical activity. People who exercised were more metabolically healthy, and exercise increases metabolic health. On the other hand, almost no one who was obese was metabolically healthy.

Data showed that metabolically healthy people tended to be more physically active, younger, female, non-smoking, and with more education.

Among their findings, researchers were disturbed by poor metabolic health in the population of uneducated adults who were obese, physically inactive, and smoked.

“Stronger and more widely accessible strategies to promote healthier lifestyles are urgently warranted,” wrote Joana Araujo, the study’s first author, with her colleagues.