Good Aerobic or Muscular Fitness Protects Overweight Men From Elevated Oxidized LDL

Jussi Kosola; Markku Ahotupa; Heikki Kyröläinen; Matti Santtila; Tommi Vasankari M.D., Ph.D.


Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(4):563-568. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Introduction: Oxidized LDL (ox-LDL) is associated with lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. The present study investigated the association between ox-LDL and overweight/obesity and how cardiorespiratory or muscle fitness affects this association.
Methods: Healthy young (mean age = 25.1 yr, range = 18–48 yr) men (n = 831) were divided into normal-weight (n = 486), overweight (n = 269), and obese (n = 76) groups according to their body mass index (BMI). The participants underwent physical fitness tests (maximal oxygen uptake with bicycle ergometer and muscle fitness index using series of muscle endurance tests), a general health examination including determination of lipid profile, and a detailed questionnaire. Subjects were further divided into six subgroups according to BMI (normal vs overweight) and physical fitness (fitness tertiles: unfit, average, fit). Age and smoking were used in the statistical analysis as covariates.
Results: In overweight and obese participants, the concentrations of ox-LDL (14%/32%) and the ratio of ox-LDL/HDL cholesterol (32%/68%) were higher compared with subjects with normal weight (P G 0.005, in all). In BMI and cardiovascular fitness subgroups, ox-LDL (23%, P G 0.0001) and the ox-LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio (45%, P G 0.0001) were higher in the overweight/unfit subgroup when compared with the normal-weight/unfit subgroup, whereas no differences were observed between the overweight/fit and normal-weight/fit subjects. Among the BMI and muscle fitness subgroups, ox-LDL (24%, P G 0.0001) and the ox-LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio (51%, P G 0.0001) were higher in the overweight/unfit group compared with the normal-weight/unfit group.
Conclusions: Overweight and obesity are associated with ox-LDL lipids and serum conventional lipids. However, both good cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness seem to protect overweight subjects from the atherogenic lipid profile.


Obesity is a constantly increasing problem, especially in the Western world.[22] Today, more than 1.6 billion people are overweight, and 400 million people are obese; and these numbers are predicted to grow to 2.3 billion overweight and 700 million obese people by the year 2015.[32] Obesity is known to be accompanied by an atherogenic lipid profile, insulin resistance, and the metabolic syndrome, leading to development of cardiovascular disease.[11,26] Oxidized LDL (ox-LDL) is a significant cardiovascular risk factor (4,20,27) and is also known to be associated with obesity.[20,21] We have earlier found that the reduction of ox-LDL lipids can be achieved through weight reduction and physical activity intervention (18,28,29). The favorable ox-LDL levels were maintained after successful weight maintenance (2 yr), whereas weight regain caused the concentration of ox-LDL to increase again.[18] Previous studies have shown that exercise intervention can effectively reduce obesity (25) and an epidemiological study conducted in the United States suggests that good cardiorespiratory fitness lowers the risk of all-cause mortality.[7]

Lee et al.[16] have shown that cardiorespiratory fitness may protect obese individuals from cardiovascular mortality. The aims of the present study were to investigate ox-LDL and serum lipids among normal-weight, overweight, and obese individuals in a population-based cross-sectional study and, in particular, to find out whether good cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness could protect overweight and obese subjects from the atherogenic lipid profile.


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