Over the past few years, there has been growing belief that being obese or overweight is not so bad after all, if you are otherwise healthy. According to some researchers and recent studies, your weight may not be such an issue as long as your cholesterol is at a healthy level, your triglyceride level is in good range, your blood pressure is normal, and your blood glucose and insulin levels are fairly stable. That is, you are not at immediate risk of heart diseases, stroke, diabetes or other health complications arising from carrying excess weight.
However, some of these studies could be misleading in terms of what it means to be actually healthy. For example, where do you draw the line between healthy and unhealthy obesity? In fact, is there such thing as healthy obesity? It is very likely that healthy obesity will eventually evolve into unhealthy obesity if long-term bad diet and lack of exercise go unchecked. In fact, a better argument is that prolonged obesity is only a preliminary stage before one’s health starts to rapidly decline and the risks of heart attack and stroke skyrocket – resulting in increased chance of early death.
A study published by the University College London in January 2015 found that while healthy obese adults have a lower disease risks than unhealthy obese adults, they still have significantly greater risks than the healthy normal-weight adults. Researchers tracked a group of 66 people who were considered ‘healthy obese’ over a 20 year period, based on their metabolic profiles including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose levels, insulin sensitivity and triglyceride levels. At the end of the study, the majority of the participants had moved from the so-called ‘healthy obese’ to ‘unhealthy obese’.
Another study was conducted by the same university but with 389 participants who were considered ‘healthy obese’. After 20 years, only 10% had lost enough weight to be considered in a healthy weight range. The other 90% of participants had gained weight and moved into the ‘unhealthy obese’ category.
Ironically, some proponents of the “healthy obesity” have even argued that extra weight stores fat which can provide extra energy for the body during prolonged or severe illness, thereby offering you a fighting chance. Well, such statements remains purely speculative and misguided. The fact is that those with greater muscle mass and body fat in a healthy range (14–17% for men, and 21–24% for women) have much better chance of fighting diseases in a highly efficient manner.
The greater muscle mass you have, the better your body is at fighting off diseases and remaining healthy, and even lowering your chance of certain cancers. Since building muscle is an inflammatory response of the body, by spending more time building muscle, your body becomes very accustomed to this physical stress and your inflammatory system becomes more elastic and efficient. So when the body gets sick, the body’s inflammatory system kick-starts and surrounds the affected areas of the body with white blood cells to fight off disease.
While it is not impossible to be healthy while obese, it is worth remembering that the effects of obesity are cumulative and the longer you carry around large amount of excess weight, the higher your chances of obesity-related health problems later in life. Those with greater lean muscle mass have a greater chance of overcoming and preventing illness and are significantly healthier than the so called ‘healthy obese’.
Do you believe that you can be obese and healthy at the same time? Join the discussion in the comment section bellow.
Stay well and get rid of those excess pounds!