by Anna Maltby
Arthur Belebeau You've probably heard many times -- even quite recently -- that it's possible to be overweight or obese and healthy. However, a new systematic meta-analysis, being published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that concept might just be a myth.
The researchers pored over eight previous important studies on weight, heart disease, metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors that include low HDL cholesterol, high-fasting blood sugar and high blood pressure) and death -- which overall included information on more than 60,000 individuals. The scientists grouped people as such: metabolically healthy and normal weight, metabolically healthy and overweight, and metabolically healthy and obese. (They also looked at metabolically unhealthy people in each weight category and, unsurprisingly, found that they had a higher risk of death and cardiovascular events--such as heart attacks -- than metabolically healthy folks at a normal weight.)
Upon their review, the researchers found that metabolically healthy obese people--folks with what's been called "benign obesity" -- are at an increased risk for heart disease or death over the long-term when compared to metabolically healthy normal-weight people. Not good, guys!
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So what about metabolically healthy overweight -- but not obese -- people? "This observation was not statistically significant for metabolically healthy overweight people," lead author Caroline K. Kramer, M.D., Ph.D., of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, told SELF. "However, these individuals with 'healthy overweight' had increased levels of blood pressure, lipids and glucose when compared to healthy normal weight."
Additionally, Dr. Kramer notes that "based on the findings of this study, we believe that there is no healthy pattern of increased weight. People with metabolically healthy obesity are at increased risk for heart disease and death over the long-term. With regard to people who are metabolically healthy but overweight, we observed that they have already increased levels of several metabolic parameters (e.g. glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, waist circumference) compared to healthy, normal-weight individuals. Taken together, these results support the concept that 'healthy and overweight/obesity' is a myth," Dr. Kramer says.
Our initial thoughts? It's never a bad idea to achieve and maintain a healthy weight--eating a balanced diet and staying active are great ideas across the board. (Not sure where to start? Try these simple 30-minute workouts, skinny holiday recipes and easy ways to eat well on the go.)
Stay tuned, though: We're going to be checking in with a few experts to get perspectives on this study, which we expect to attract a lot of attention from the medical community. Head to SELF.com for updates!