Obesity/overweight is a major epidemic worldwide ruining the well-being of individuals due to its effects on health. Cardiovascular diseases, high blood glucose and blood pressure levels, knee pain and infertility problems are all results of carrying an overweight body. Lifestyle, activity levels, exercise schedules, diet and stress levels prevail as major determining factors of a healthy-weighed body. Recently, activities of gut bacteria are also said to have a lasting impact on obesity rates of a person. There are numerous studies and research pointing to the fact that obese/overweight adults are at a higher risk of dying from heart disease or other illnesses, greater the obesity rates, greater is the chances of death and so on.
The term ‘healthy obesity’ sounds more like an oxymoron and brings us to the point whether a person can be obese and healthy at the same time. A BMI above 30 is termed as obese and majority of the researchers/scientist population agree that the term ‘healthy obesity’ is flawed as obese yet metabolically healthy people are at an increased risk of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and overall mortality rates. There are studies that show that metabolically healthy obesity is not a safe condition and even women who stay away from metabolic diseases for decades are at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Despite these studies, there do remain controversies and arguments surrounding whether the term ‘healthy obesity’ is really flawed. Some physicians and researchers feel that we must move away from the concept of using BMI to categorize a person as healthy or unhealthy and focus more on how we would be defining healthy. We need to consider fitness levels, sleep patterns, joint pain, breathing pattern, stress levels, peace quotient, social interactions and nutrient levels to look at an individual as a sum total of all these conditions put together rather than looking at one or two of them separately.
Social stigma has curbed obese people from visiting the physician often for treatment fearing a lecture about their weights and the negative consequences attached to it. Results do point out that obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes but in no way does it make sure that any individual will not be spared until he/she is affected by the disease.
The latest study is that, patients who have metabolic healthy obesity without any other metabolic risk factors are not at an increased risk of mortality. This study could revive our concepts of health and obesity. Also, obesity is different from hypertension, dyslipidemia or diabetes which can increase mortality risk independently unlike obesity. The study followed 54,089 men and women who were categorized as having obesity alone or clustered with a metabolic factor, or elevated glucose, blood pressure or lipids alone or in combination with obesity or other metabolic factors. The researchers analyzed how many people within each of these groups died compared to those within normal weight ranges devoid of any metabolic risk factors. While current guidelines define anyone with a BMI over 30 as obese and recommends weight loss furthermore categorizing them as unhealthy even in the absence of any other risk factors, researchers found that 1 of every 20 individuals with obesity suffered from no other metabolic abnormalities. Researchers found that people with normal weight with no other metabolic risk factors were just as likely to die as a person with obesity and no other additional risk factors. But still, thousands of metabolically healthy obese people are told to lose weight even without thoroughly understanding how much this weight loss will actually benefit them.
Debating or raising concerns about the authenticity of the term ‘healthy obesity’ is not going to give us any valuable solutions nor help people trying to stay healthy. Physicians must improve health and well-being of patients by reducing weight stigma and make any patient feel comfortable while they come for treatment. Rather than outrightly prescribing diet or exercise changes to an overweight/obese patient assuming lack of any activity from the patient’s end, physicians must firstly ask the patient whether he/she is interested to discuss about weight/diet changes. Any doctor must treat an obese patient as he/she would treat other patients and not concentrate all his attention on the patient’s weight issue. Health is definitely largely dependent on a patient’s weight but not solely dependent on it and there are many other issues that affect both, mental and physical health of an individual. If you are disturbed mentally due to stress issues, find innovative relaxation techniques that are highly feasible and result-oriented from the website www.firsteatright.com.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.