Obesity is no bar to being healthy, a new study reveals.
It seeks to dispel the notion that being fat or overweight means you are not physically fit.
Researchers, who studied data from 43,625 people in the United States, conclude that some obese people are ‘metabolically healthy’.
These people showed no greater risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer than people who were of normal weight.
However, it is important to remember that being ‘metabolically healthy’ means that you have no high blood pressure, high cholesterol or raised blood sugar, and that you are getting enough exercise.
The findings, following the study at the University of South Carolina, are published in the European Heart Journal.
“Current knowledge on the prognosis of metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is limited due to the exclusive use of the body mass index to define obesity and the lack of information on cardio-respiratory fitness,” says the study.
According to the World Health Organisation, someone who has a body mass index equal to or greater than 25 is overweight and equal to or greater than 30 is obese.
Researchers sought to test the following hypotheses:
- metabolically healthy but obese individuals have a higher fitness level than their metabolically abnormal and obese peers;
- after accounting for fitness, metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, in terms of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Fitness was assessed by a maximal exercise test on a treadmill and body fat percentage by hydrostatic weighing or skinfolds.
Metabolically healthy was considered if meeting 0 or 1 of the criteria for metabolic syndrome.
More than a third of the participants in the study were obese. Of these 18,500, half were assessed as metabolically healthy.
These people, who did not suffer from health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, were generally more fit and exercised more than other obese people.
The risk of these people developing or dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer was the same as those of people of normal weight and half of metabolically less fit obese people.
Lead author of the study Dr. Francisco Ortega, currently a research associate affiliated to the Department of Physical Activity and Sport, University of Granada in Spain, said the findings show that getting more exercise can keep you healthier, even if you are overweight.
"The research highlights once again the important role of physical fitness as a health marker."