HealthDay News — Maintaining or improving fitness and preventing fat gain are both associated with a lower likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in healthy adults, study results indicate.

Duck-chul Lee, PhD, of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and colleagues assessed 3,148 healthy adults over six years and three medical examinations to examine the correlation between fitness and fatness with CVD. Participants were categorized into loss, stable or gain groups based on changes in fitness, as assessed by maximal treadmill test, and fatness, calculated using percent body fat and BMI between the first and second exams. Study results appear in the Feb. 14 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

During the six-year follow-up 752 adults developed hypertension, 426 developed metabolic syndrome and 597 developed hypercholesterolemia. Maintaining or improving fitness was associated with a reduced risk for developing each outcome, whereas increasing fatness was linked to an elevated risk of developing each outcome (all P for trend <0.05), the researchers found after adjusting for possible confounding factors.

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When fitness was maintained or improved, the increased risks associated with fat gain appeared to be offset, although not completely eliminated. Similarly, when fat was reduced, there was an attenuation of the increased risks associated with loss of fitness.

“Both maintaining or improving fitness and preventing fat gain are important to reduce the risk of developing CVD risk factors in healthy adults,” the researchers wrote.

One study researcher disclosed financial ties to the weight loss industry. The study was partially funded by the Coca-Cola Company.

Lee DC et al. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2012; 59:665-672.