The Healthy Obese? One Study Thinks So…
August 3, 2010 by Dr. Mark Wiley
More than 129 million Americans are overweight. That’s 64.5 percent of the United States population and more than double the entire population of France.
More specifically, 40 million Americans are obese or seriously overweight. That’s double the entire population of Australia. Three million of them suffer from life-threatening obesity, otherwise known as morbid obesity. That’s 60 times the number of soldiers who died in Vietnam.
What’s more, according to former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, “overweight and obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.”
Obesity is a curable and preventable epidemic disease. Today’s fast food restaurants, processed foods and soft drinks, poor eating habits and lack of exercise have contributed to this abundance of body fat.
Generally speaking, when we get 10 percent above our normal weight we are considered obese. The government has determined what our ideal weight should be. Determining whether we are obese is done by determining our Body Mass Index (BMI). To find your BMI (and to see if you’re “government approved”) go to the website of the Center for Consumer Freedom, and type in your height and weight.
There are a number of different causes of obesity including genetics, constitution, age, diet, emotions, level of daily physical activity and lifestyle. Of these, genetics pose the problem in terms of how we develop. However, lifestyle plays the major role. How much we eat, when we eat, what we eat, how much we exercise and so on can all make us obese. But can one be obese and still remain healthy? A recent study suggests it’s possible.
At the annual Endocrine Society meeting held June 19, in San Diego, Dutch research was presented that weight is not as important as metabolic profile. The study, consisting of more than 1,300 obese participants, found that 90 of them did not have heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Moreover, those same people showed no history of stroke and their cholesterol levels were within normal range without medication. Researchers followed up with the 90 metabolically healthy obese participants and found that only one of them developed cardiovascular disease.
For more information on the study and presentation, click here.
While the Dutch study may offer solace to those who are overweight, I would like to contradict that notion. To begin, let’s discuss how one is determined to be obese. To do this we must return to the BMI calculation.
I, for one, have never thought it reliable. For example, athletes whose muscle density and size are not related to body fat offer “false” readings of being overweight. Additionally, many of the serious side effects of obesity, like heart disease and diabetes, are linked to belly fat. Thus, depending on where one holds his fat, he may not be at risk for those collateral illnesses.
With this in mind the Dutch study did not consider muscle density or fat location and missed the fact that obesity is unhealthy, period—regardless of the additional life-threatening diseases it may or may not cause. The elephant in the room, of course, for the Dutch metabolically healthy participants is that only 7 percent of the entire group of obese participants were considered so. That is way too small a number for anyone to get their hopes up.
The new obesity calculation being used is called the Weight to Height Ratio (WtHR). It takes fat location into consideration. The WtHR is calculated by dividing your waist size by your height. It also adjusts for men and women in its numbers. To learn more about WtHR, go here and here.
Being overweight is unhealthy. Not only can it cause high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it also wreaks havoc on the bones and joints. Moreover, its psychological affects can be debilitating. The good news is that obesity is reversible and also preventable.
The answer, then, is to maintain an attitude of temperance when it comes to everything. Don’t engage in too many stressful events that can cause you to eat or drink in excess. Don’t eat too late at night. Be physically active enough every day to burn off what you put in.
In the end, what we have here is a new definition of obesity. Where we once associated this term with people who are “huge,” we now know that even those of us with a gut or who are overweight but “hold it well” are actually also considered obese. Thus, we must also have temperance when it comes to comments directed at others. And while we change our perceptions on this disease, let us drink plenty of water and avoid sweets and greasy foods in the process.
—Dr. Mark Wiley