You’ve seen your friend remain obese/overweight since high school days and when you meet her after a decade or so, still she is the same! She doesn’t suffer from high blood pressure, cholesterol or heart disease risk nor does she refrain from daily chores and activities citing overweight issues as an excuse. Life goes on happily and you remain unbothered about her weight issues as she ‘seems’ to look hale and healthy.
Healthy Obesity: A Paradox
Obesity brings along numerous health risks such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and several types of cancer along with physical changes to your body structure. Body shaming is commonly observed. Recent times have witnessed the use of the term ‘metabolically healthy obesity’ for obese/overweight woman having high body mass index (BMI) but not having any health conditions that occur as a health risk of obesity. There have been quite a number of varying study results supporting and denying the existence of ‘metabolically healthy obesity’. Latest of them is a research that warns such individuals to lose weight as early as possible to avoid any risk of heart disease.
Its been commonly accepted even medically that some obese people live a healthy life and are devoid of heart disease risks and have not been advised to lose weight or take preventive steps to stay wary of developing a heart disease anytime in the near future. But the entire medical community was doubtful whether this pattern will continue forever or if these individuals might suffer from metabolic syndrome over time.
Metabolic syndrome includes risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and abdominal fat which are leading causes for cardiovascular diseases and have the potential to increase the risk of diabetes by five times. The current study included more than 6,500 participants who did not suffer from cardiovascular disease but had a BMI greater than 30 and two or few risk factors. The main idea of the study was to check whether metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) at baseline remained stable or led to metabolic syndrome thereby increasing risk of heart disease. They were followed up for 12 years with a clinical evaluation done once in two years to check this risk.
Results showed that baseline MHO was not associated with incident cardiovascular disease but almost 50% participants developed metabolic syndrome over the study period and were at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those with stable MHO and healthy weight ranges.
To confirm this, the research team conducted yet another study that involved close to 1,00,000 women who were free of CVD at baseline. The participants were categorized into different groups based on their BMIs, metabolic health status and change in metabolic health status and followed up for 30 years. Different risk factors such as age, smoking and drinking habits, activity levels and family history of heart attack/diabetes was also adjusted. Results showed that women with MHO who were free of metabolic diseases for decades were at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These women were at a 39% increased risk of CVD compared to healthy study participants. Almost 84% women with MHO at baseline and 68% metabolically healthy women with a normal BMI developed some metabolic condition over a 20-year period. But even those who managed to stay free of metabolic disease over a 20-year period had a 57% increased risk of CVD if they were obese compared to women with a healthy body weight.
‘Healthy obesity’, ‘obese but active’ and ‘fit but fat’ are good to hear but practically they offer no perks and are as bad as simply telling that a person is obese and he/she is at a risk of diseases. Its up to each of us to take the right measures and start leading an active lifestyle to maintain our body weight in normal healthy ranges. Get in touch with registered dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com to get a personalized diet plan suiting your body type.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.