The Obesity Paradox

April 26, 2011 by  
Filed under A Healthy Body

Is there a direct association between obesity and ill health?  A number of studies have found a direct association between higher body mass index (BMI) and the risk of diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular problems.

Why, then, is it that some people are obese but healthy and happy. It leads to an obvious question: “If you are fat but healthy, should you bother about losing weight at all?”

There are several interesting paradoxes about obesity. Let’s have a look at the most well-known of these. Studies originating from the Winston-Salem State University of North Carolina confirm the existence of these paradoxes and look at the reasons why some people are clinically obese but do not attract obesity-related diseases. The study found that 25-30% of obese people present normal blood glucose and normal blood lipids. Here are the reasons why this is so.

  • Some people possess genes that protect them from various diseases.
  • Sports and exercise carry benefits. Sumo wrestlers (and they are big, aren’t they?), while technically obese, are often metabolically healthy.
  • Habits like drinking, smoking, drug use, sleep habits, stress and diet add to the risk of obesity related illnesses.
  • Age matters, as younger people who are obese are less likely to fall victim to obesity related diseases.
  • The Body Mass Index (BMI) is not as important as body fat percentage and lean body mass. This may explain why some heavy athletes remain healthy.
  • The risk of health problems increase with the duration of obesity. Somebody who has been obese for an extended period of time is more susceptible to related diseases.
  • The fat cell size matters and this get a bit technical. Research has shown that small but numerous fat cells carry lower risk than fewer fat cells that are much larger. Science refers to this as the biology of adipocyte.
  • The location at which you accumulate fat is also important. It has been found that abdominal and visceral fat accumulation is the most dangerous. Fat in the body extremities seem to be fairly harmless.

However, there’s more to this story. If you’re healthy should you be encouraged to lose weight at all? Should you be nagged and pushed to lose the weight? Maybe you should just accept yourself the way you are? Or at least, take your time to lose the weight.

To recap, at least 25% of people who are obese stay metabolically healthy? However, we can fairly safely claim that everybody who carries excess weight will gain health benefits by losing weight and improving their body composition. There is, after all, a difference between absence of disease and optimal health. Weight loss and improved body composition provides other benefits. The benefits include an improved quality of life, enhanced self confidence, greater mobility and often an improved social life. The last one may well be the benefit that could motivate you to take action as it carries a range of benefits related to social engagement.

There are additional benefits, of course. How about taking the stress off the knees and hips? How about sleeping better? The final conclusion of the research to which we have referred is perhaps the most important consideration you need to take into account. This is what they concluded: “Low cardio respiratory fitness and inactivity is a greater health threat than obesity.” Herein lies another paradox. The more obese and unfit you are, the harder it is to start exercising. It becomes a pain. Just accept that weight loss alone improves health dramatically and so does exercise. Exercise and activity matter a lot in the pursuit of your health.

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One Response to “The Obesity Paradox”
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