According to a new Canadian study, published today, the idea that you can be obese or overweight and healthy isn’t necessarily true, because most people aren’t thinking about their health down the line.
The study, conducted by Dr. Ravi Retnakaran of the University of Toronto used more than 61, 000 people and followed the differences found between obese or overweight people and slimmer folks when it comes to their health and the risks they might face for heart attacks, strokes and death. Following up with those individuals after a decade, “those who were overweight or obese but didn’t have high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes still had a 24 percent increased risk for heart attack, stroke and death over 10 years or more, compared with normal-weight people.”
Dr. Renakaran had this to say about his findings:
“These data suggest that increased body weight is not a benign condition, even in the absence of metabolic abnormalities, and argue against the concept of healthy obesity or benign obesity.
We found that metabolically healthy obese individuals are indeed at increased risk for death and cardiovascular events over the long term as compared with metabolically healthy normal-weight individuals.”
Of course, many people often say that just because they aren’t small in size doesn’t automatically make them unhealthy. There is some truth to that. According to David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, not all weight gain is harmful. And skinny people with metabolic health problems like high blood pressure or high cholesterol can be at even higher risk for the heart attacks, strokes and more than bigger folks. But still, both men claim it’s possible that “metabolically healthy” individuals actually just have risk factors at a lower level that can and will get worse as time passes if not controlled.
“It depends partly on genes, partly on the source of calories, partly on activity levels, partly on hormone levels. Weight gain in the lower extremities among younger women tends to be metabolically harmless; weight gain as fat in the liver can be harmful at very low levels.”
Katz went on to say that once you gain weight in your liver, that’s when you can really end up at high risk for heart attacks, strokes and death.
“In particular, fat in the liver interferes with its function and insulin sensitivity. This starts a domino effect. Insensitivity to insulin causes the pancreas to compensate by raising insulin output. Higher insulin levels affect other hormones in a cascade that causes inflammation. Fight-or-flight hormones are affected, raising blood pressure. Liver dysfunction also impairs blood cholesterol levels.”
All in all, the men say that they are all for people focusing on eating healthier and exercising rather than pushing to meet a certain weight. As Katz says, “Lifestyle practices conducive to weight control over the long term are generally conducive to better overall health as well. I favor a focus on finding health over a focus on losing weight.”
I personally don’t sit around stressing myself out over my BMI, but I know that I need to take better care of myself when it comes to what I eat in order to look out for myself (I write this as I eat Nutter Butters, but I’m heading to the gym tonight!). I might think I’m healthy now, but that doesn’t mean my own weight struggles won’t negatively impact me in the long term, but it’s all a process, right?