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Obese and Healthy?

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:37pm

I’ve missed this place! It’s been quite awhile since my last post, and I’ve sort of been seeking inspiration on blogging for a few months now. I saw this WebMD article, though, and couldn’t pass up the chance to share it. It’s entitled, “ Obese and Healthy? Some Obese People Don’t Risk Heart Disease, Diabetes; Some Normal-Weight People Do,” or alternatively, as I like to put it, “The medical community may, in fact, be catching on.”

A recent study has shown that instead of the common measure of belly fat as a risk for heart disease and diabetes, in obese people, the risk is actually associated to liver fat.

Despite their weight, nearly a third of obese people are not at high risk of diabetes or heart disease, but nearly a quarter of normal-weight people are.

The finding comes from a study of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease in 5,440 obese, overweight, and normal-weight U.S. adults by Albert Einstein College researchers Rachel P. Wildman, PhD, Judith Wylie-Rosett, EdD, and colleagues.

Clues to what’s going on come from a second study looking at 314 German adults with traditional risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease: a family history of type 2 diabetes, obesity, or a personal history of high blood sugar or gestational diabetes.

Close examination revealed a wide range of true diabetes/heart disease risk factors. For normal-weight and overweight people, risk was linked to belly fat. But for obese people, risk wasn’t so much linked to belly fat as it was to having a fatty liver.

According to research findings, the most important thing is increasing fitness.

“The most important factor is not how much you exercise, but what the effect your exercise has in increasing your fitness,” Stefan says. “It looks like at the same level of exercise, some people increase their fitness and others don’t. It looks like there are fitness non-responders. And those non-responders don’t have that good an effect of exercise on liver fat.”

I don’t have any high hopes about this causing a reversal of the obesity epidemic media and medical frenzy anytime soon, but nevertheless, it’s refreshing to finally read a study that backs up the idea that yes, it is possible to be both clinically obese by the numbers…and fit.

The article does state, “On the other hand, being obese isn’t healthy. ‘Obesity is not fine,’ Landsberg warns. ‘In addition to cardiovascular risk and diabetes risk there is arthritis risk, cancer risk — a whole series of unhealthy outcomes.’” Every statement that fatness might not be the end of the world must be accompanied by qualifiers, of course.

Still, the fact is that doctors might finally be getting the idea that a large number of obese people are not in mortal danger of diabetes and heart disease simply because they are fat. This flies in the face of those, “Well, you’re just the exception…all other obese people are like this ” statements.

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