Obese and Healthy Not Possible, Study Says

obeseThere used to be the belief that a person could be both fit and fat. There was research to support the theory, stating that the individuals, despite being overweight, were metabolically healthy. Newer research, however, paints a different picture. A recent study shows that being obese and healthy is not possible. The authors claim that being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease, even if other risk factors are not present. Being diabetic, having high blood pressure or having high cholesterol often accompany obesity, but they are not necessary to identify a person as high risk.

Dr. Yoosoo Chang, a professor in Seoul at the Kangbuk Samsung Hospital Total Healthcare Center for Cohort Studies, conducted a study on over 14,000 Korean men and woman, between the ages of 30 and 59, who were overweight or obese with a high risk of heart disease or stroke. He said that assuming someone who is obese but is not experiencing any heart problems is healthy is not correct.

Researchers found that the so-called healthy obese participants had plaque buildup in their arteries, which will eventually lead to heart problems. They state that obesity in itself is enough of a risk factor to deem a person unhealthy, regardless if their other stats come back normal. The study shows that even obese participants with normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels had abnormally high readings over time. These results were published on April 30 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Being obese means you’re more likely to have joint disease, psychiatric disorders and cancers,” said Dr. Rishi Puri, medical director of the atherosclerosis imaging core lab at the Cleveland Clinic. He explained that carrying extra weight is about more than just heart problems.

Past studies have found that people who were fit and fat, but not obese, could be considered healthy and even found that they often live longer than those of a normal weight. A separate study that was conducted last year, however, was published in the Annuls of Internal Medicine and found that this was not the case. The study was led by Dr. Caroline Kramer who found that participants with a high BMI were at risk for heart disease, regardless of whether their metabolic readings were normal or not.

Dr Kramer said that it is likely the nature of the previous studies that caused a different outcome, in which they compared fit and fat participants with fat and unhealthy participants rather than people of an average or healthy weight.

Chang’s study confirms Dr. Kramer’s findings. While there has been an assumption that being fat and fit is healthy, this study challenges that notion. Being overweight or obese causes inflammation, which contributes to heart disease. While being active and exercising are important at any size, obese people who remain active are not necessarily healthy. Doctors have a responsibility to educate and guide overweight and obese patients to live a healthier lifestyle in order to prevent cardiovascular problems in the future. Remaining obese is not healthy, as it puts the person at risk for a host of health problems.

By Tracy Rose


American Journal of the American College of Cardiology
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