Obesity Paradox and Fitness Theory Quell Fatness Myths

A publication in the European Heart Journal has quelled the common belief that all obese people are unhealthy and prone to cardiovascular diseases. The paper was published based on a study by scientists at the University of South Carolina, USA. The research focuses on a subset of fat people who are as healthy as any fit person.


Study on obese people and their metabolic activity

The research was conducted under the guidance of lead author of the paper Dr. Francisco Ortega from the University of Granada, Spain. According to him, though obesity is linked to chronic diseases of the heart and cancer, there exist a group of obese people who are immune to metabolic complications resulting from obesity.  The research was aimed at finding out the basis of this exclusion among the obese.

The study was designed by Dr Steven Blair of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which provided the sample of 43,265 people for the analysis. The participants of this study were enrolled in the center between 1979 and 2003. They were required to fill in questionnaires regarding their lifestyle and medical history. They underwent physical examination for fitness, vital statistics, and body fat percentages and so on. Blood pressure, glucose levels and cholesterol levels in the blood were also measured.

The metabolically active obese

Statistical analysis of the data from all these participants revealed that more than 46% of the obese people were metabolically healthy. These people were 38% less prone to death by chronic diseases, than their unhealthy obese counterparts.

This outcome implies that there exist a new group of people who are obese but metabolically active and healthy. They indulge in physical exercise that has a positive influence on their organs and the body as a whole. With this research it is now clear that fitness is largely influenced by exercise.

How useful is this study to the physicians

The results of this research have proved two main facts to us:  firstly, obese people should henceforth be categorized based on their levels of cardio-respiratory fitness as metabolically healthy and unhealthy types. Secondly, once the fitness level has been measured, metabolically healthy people show a prognosis pattern similar to that of the normal-weight individuals.

The outcomes of this study are a guideline for the physicians that they should assess the obese patients based on 3 parameters – fitness, fatness and metabolic activity. Thus physical fitness becomes a definitive health marker in assessing an individual for risk of chronic conditions.

Research that proposes Obesity paradox

An independent research on the same subject by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden has revealed another important fact about obese people. It shows that obese people who suffered a heart disease had lesser chances of dying from the disease as compared to the normal weight patients with similar conditions.

Both these findings have led to the conclusion that obesity is not entirely harmful. Obesity can be beneficial to a certain extent, and it may not be associated with abnormal metabolic activity all the time.