People love being skinny, wish for their collar bone to peep out in their spaghetti tops and want to fit into a small girls’ t-shirt, if possible. What they ultimately care about? Looking like a glam doll or becoming that muscular guy which every other person would envy of. It’s clear that being overweight is unhealthy, but never would people realize that there’s something called as ‘skinny fat’ that is ultimately bad too for health!
A new research reinstates the fact that even when your weight numbers make you joyous and happy, these numbers don’t indicate your health quotient entirely and there is a completely different approach to this. The study emphasizes that normal-weighted people who have fat around their middle have a greater mortality risk than people who are obese/overweight with regular fat distribution.
Obesity or Not, you are Still at Risk
There have been thousands of articles in newspaper, magazines and social media quoting the ill-effects of obesity that include heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more. You lose weight, reach your normal body weight and you feel happy about it! But it doesn’t end there. Staying slim does not guarantee freedom from all these health conditions stated above and skinny fat could be equally hard on you, in fact even more damaging than being obese.
The problem here is that we clearly know what defines obesity-a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more-and ‘skinny fat’ remains an intangible term without proper definition to it. According to a professor at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, skinny fat refers to people who have a normal body weight matching their height (simply put, BMI) but have an irrationally high quantity of body fat.
The world uses BMI for body mass calculations and you might be surprised or even outrightly reject my view when I blame the BMI. BMI is used to categorize a person as overweight when he/she has a BMI of 25 and above, and obese when the numbers reach 30 and above. A healthy-weighted athlete who has a toned physique might have a greater BMI indicating obesity due to his/her muscular body tone. Also, age decreases muscle composition and increases fat composition, slows metabolism and fastens weight gain even when people still eat the same quantities and exercise daily. Despite limitations, there is nothing so simple and direct to measure body fat and hence, BMI exists as the popular one for calculating the health of the general population.
When low muscle mass and high body fat exist together it is called as sarcopenic obesity and this condition remains as a dangerous threat to brain health. This can affect memory, orientation, self-control or mental flexibility, all of which are symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
There is even a journal study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging that reestablished the fact that skinny fat can be an important predictor of cognitive performance in older adults. Researchers used a community-based aging and memory study involving 353 participants whose average age was around 69 years. The study team found considerable evidence of value linking sarcopenia obesity to poor cognitive global performance in the participants.
Don’t Carry Weight Around Your Abdomen
More than the total fat levels, it is the distribution of fat and dense muscle mass that occupy prime importance. The fat surrounds vital organs such as the liver, heart and pancreas and contributes to the development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and coronary heart disease. Moreover, individuals who carry more weight around their abdomen, especially women, are at a higher risk of premature cardiovascular disease, diabetes and death compared to people with a similar BMI but less fat around their abdomen.
A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine reports that normal-weighted people who have fat distribution around their middle have a higher mortality risk than people who are overweight/obese with normal fat distribution. The research team analyzed around 15, 184 people aged between 18 and 90 years. The participants had about 14 years of follow-up data which provided valuable information to the researchers regarding their risk for heart-related mortality and total death risk. The study did not research on ‘why’ people with fat distribution around their middle experienced higher mortality risk but the researchers speculated on one culprit-visceral fat (fat stored around the belly). This type of fat is considered to be riskier than subcutaneous fat and this might also be one of the reasons why over-weight obese people survive longer than those who are centrally obese.
Check Your Waistline
These days we often come across the term ‘healthy obesity’ and there are various controversies surrounding this-how can a person be obese yet healthy? So, is there no need to maintain a healthy body weight if you are healthy otherwise? Irrespective of the weight, it is advisable that every individual exercises regularly, eats healthy and remains active to safeguard their body against excess body fat. Try to do moderate-intensity workout for at least 30 minutes five days a week, try to move as much as possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk to work, if possible. Get in touch with reputed registered dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com to check your body fat percentage and ensure that you are healthy. If your fat percentage is above normal, it is better to request your RDN for a change in diet and exercise plan suiting your body type. Even if you are slim and BMI values seem to be well-below normal, check your waistline. Abdominal fat and an apple-shaped figure is riskier than fat on the hips (pear-shaped body).
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.
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