Healthy obesity a myth, study concludes

This makes it difficult for scientists to see how clear-cut the conclusions are or gauge how big any increased risks of ill-health might be. AGENCIES

The study authors found that, compared to normal weight individuals with no metabolic abnormalities, individuals with metabolically healthy obesity had a 50% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

Dr Rishi Caleyachetty, who led the study, said it was true that weightlifters could be healthy and yet have a BMI that suggested they were obese.

Researchers from the Institute of Applied Health Research in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham looked at the health records of 3.5 million people over ten years and found the risk is still higher for healthy obese people than for people with healthy weights.

The researchers used health records from 1995 to 2015 to assemble a cohort of 3.5m individuals aged 18 years or older and initially free from cardiovascular disease.

While most obese people have an increased risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes compared to those of a normal weight, experts had picked up on the fact that some seem to buck that trend and remain healthy.

To be classified as "metabolically healthy obese", individuals had to have none of the three metabolic abnormalities.

Compared to healthy people not carrying extra weight, those who were obese also had a 49% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 7% greater risk of suffering a stroke.

People regarded as obese but healthy also have an increased risk of stroke and nearly double the risk of heart failure, researchers found.

The study focused on examining whether the risk of developing four cardiovascular conditions was different for normal weight people that have no metabolic conditions or people with metabolically healthy obesity.

The term "fat but fit" is a fallacy that risks accelerating the spread of global obesity, according to new research which throws cold water on a commonly held medical belief.

The analysis also showed that the risk of cardiovascular disease events in obese individuals grew with increased number of metabolic abnormalities present. While there was an overall lower risk of peripheral vascular disease, healthy obese people who never smoked had an increased risk.

Image copyright Getty Images Fitness and fatness: tricky things to measure?

It was thought that up to a third of obese people were healthy. "Ask rugby forwards who shift their bulk up a field for 80 minutes and you'll get a 'Yes".

'Unfortunately, the Birmingham researchers appear not to have factored in recent genetic evidence that goes a long way to explaining why so many fat people appear not to suffer ill health.

Other research presented at the Congress includes a study from the University of St Andrews revealing young Scots are eating more candies than their United Kingdom counterparts but drinking less fizzy juice than they did 15 years ago. The new study has debunked the widely health medical belief that some fat people can also stay fit.

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