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Miraculous Misconceptions: Obese and Healthy?

A study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism this week concluded that obese people who are otherwise considered healthy, live as long as their “skinny” peers.   The study also suggests that healthy obese individuals are less likely to die from cardiovascular complications than their lean counterparts.

I silently laughed as the media got a hold of this study with titles such as, “Fat and Healthy? Study finds Slim isn’t always Superior”, or “Being fat isn’t a death sentence at all”, or my favorite “Obesity Police busted? Study says fat people can be healthy.”

The study monitored 6,000 obese Americans over 16 years and compared them to the death rate of lean individuals.  Once compared, the conclusion was found that the mortality rate of obese individuals who had none or minor co-morbidities were no higher than that of lean people.

CBS interviewed Dr. Kulk who stated "I think this is a common notion, that if you are overweight you are unhealthy and that if you are skinny you are healthy. What people need to realize is that normal-weight people can have diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems."

I echo what Dr. Kulk says and because of that, this study wasn’t so mind blowing for me.  Basically a lean person with Diabetes, and Hypertension, especially that is uncontrolled, will absolutely have a higher mortality risk than the obese person with no co-morbidities. 

I wonder what the ages were of the individuals who were monitored and I also ask myself, is sixteen years a long enough time span to monitor?  I’m not sure, especially when I think about the overweight college student that doesn’t find out they have Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, or hypertension until their mid thirties. 

After reading clips from this study, at the end of the day I think it’s important to always look at the whole picture. Do I think you can look at someone’s weight and assess their health status?  Absolutely not and this is why I don’t put too much merit on BMI and weight alone in my practice.  It’s important to address family history, diet, physical activity, and co-morbidities.  Always remember, just because you do not have any co-morbidities now, no matter what your weight, does not mean you will not develop them later.  Focus on a healthy diet and physical activity for heart health and don’t skip your yearly physicals.  

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