When is Fat Healthier Than Thin?

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By Sally Jones

Good News for the Healthy Obese!Good News for the Healthy Obese!When the fat exercise, according to a study recently published in the European Heart Journal. And that is heartening news for those of us who regularly exercise, yet still struggle with our weight.

Researchers reviewed the data of more than 43,000 Americans, a third of them obese (defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher), and found that obese individuals who were metabolically fit - that is, maintained normal blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels and healthy heart and lung function - were at no greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer than metabolically fit people of any weight. And the key to their metabolic fitness? Exercise.

Researchers found no significant difference in health risk between the fit-and-obese and the fit-and-normal-weight subjects. The risk of developing heart disease or cancer was 30-50 percent lower for both groups compared to their thinner but unfit counterparts.

So even if you never achieve your weight goal, maintaining your "metabolic fitness" is good enough reason not to throw in the towel when it comes to exercise. And if you need more motivation than that, just consider the unfit alternative.

Obesity when coupled with a sedentary lifestyle is the second leading cause of death in the United States.

Obesity A-Z

It is also a major component of a group of dangerous health risk factors known collectively as metabolic syndrome:

  • Central obesity (too much fat tissue in and around the abdomen)
  • Elevated fasting glucose equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL
  • High triglycerides (equal to or greater than 150 mg/dL) and low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL for men or less than 50 mg/dL for women), which are both associated with plaque accumulation in the arteries
  • High blood pressure (130/85 mm HG or higher)
  • Insulin resistance or glucose intolerance
  • Other proinflammatory and prothrombotic states

Metabolic syndrome is considered an underlying contributor to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Metabolic Syndrome

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 32 percent of American women 20 years of age and older are considered obese. Are you one of them?

One measure of obesity is your body mass index (BMI), which can be determined by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and then multiplying by 703.

Calculate Your BMI

If you suspect that you are obese, what can you do to stay healthy? Exercise is one strategy for good health. Check out these others from the National Weight Control Registry.

National Weight Control Registry Winning Strategies

For more information on the latest fit-and-obese study discussed here, see the European Heart Journal.

European Heart Journal