Healthy Obesity: Is It a Myth?

Monday April 28, 2014

A new research review, published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, seems to dispel the myth that it’s possible to be both obese and healthy if an individual has normal metabolic markers, like low cholesterol and low blood pressure.

The review, conducted at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, analyzed eight previous studies from the past decade. Researchers concluded that obesity consistently carries a higher risk of cardiovascular issues and premature death.

“The finding of increased risk of death or cardiovascular events for obese individuals suggests that gaining excess weight is associated with risk that may accumulate over time, even before metabolic and cardiovascular signs become apparent in lab tests,” study co-author Ravi Retnakaran, MD, MSc, FRCP(C), said in a news release.

Metabolic markers not the right measure

The eight studies analyzed by Mount Sinai researchers each spanned 10 years or more and included a combined 61,386 adults. Approximately nine percent of the participants studied were considered obese but metabolically healthy. In other words, those individuals had normal cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar readings within the healthy range.

However, despite the normal metabolic readings, the review found that an obese person had a 24 percent higher risk of experiencing cardiovascular events (like a heart attack or stroke) or premature death compared to an individual with normal weight. A person who was overweight, but not obese, had a 21 percent greater risk.

Obesity and health risks

Being overweight or obese carries numerous health risks, from back pain, sleep apnea, depression and asthma, to heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two-thirds of American adults aged 20 and up are overweight, and roughly 36 percent are obese.

“We are telling people and doctors that it is not okay to be obese, even though you don’t have metabolic abnormalities,” Dr. Kramer told CTV News. “This excess of weight still confers increased risk for cardiovascular events.”

Source: Healthline