Can you really be obese yet healthy?

April 11, 2018, Taylor & Francis
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new paper has called for an end to the term 'healthy obesity', due to it being misleading and flawed. The focus should instead be on conducting more in-depth research to understand causes and consequences of varying health among people with the same BMI.

The term 'healthy ' was first used in the 1980's to describe who were apparently healthy—for example they didn't suffer with hypertension or diabetes.

Dr William Johnson, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, emphasizes in the journal Annals of Human Biology that the construct of 'healthy obesity' is limited. This is because categorizing a population using cut-offs (e.g., BMI > 30 kg/m2 and blood pressure < 140/90 mmHg) results in some normal weight and obese individuals being labelled 'healthy', when there are obviously differences between the two groups.

However, Dr Johnson does acknowledge that there are health differences between obese individuals with the same BMI and explains that there should be further investigation into contributing factors such as being obese for longer, adverse early life events, and smoking during adolescence. Such research would explain why one person has a disease or dies, while another with the same BMI (or ) is fine. Dr Johnson explains, "It is undeniable that obesity is bad for health, but there are clearly differences between individuals in the extent to which it is bad."

"While the concept of is crude and problematic and may best be laid to rest, there is great opportunity for human biological investigation of the levels, causes, and consequences of heterogeneity in health among people with the same BMI."

"While epidemiology has revealed many of the life course processes and exposures that lead to a given disease, we know relatively little about the things that occur across someone's life that lead to them having a heart attack, for example, while their friend with the same BMI is fine. Existing birth cohort studies have the data necessary to improve knowledge on this topic." Johnson suggests.

With obesity at epidemic levels worldwide, such research could inform the development of more stratified disease prevention and intervention efforts targeted at individuals who have the highest risk.

Explore further: Progression of obesity influences risk of diabetes over life course

More information: Annals of Human Biology, DOI: 10.1080/03014460.2018.1444789

Related Stories

Progression of obesity influences risk of diabetes over life course

March 8, 2018
(HealthDay)—Changes in weight influence the risk of diabetes, with lower risk of diabetes for obese individuals who lose weight versus stable obesity, according to a study published online March 5 in Diabetes Care.

Higher waist and hip measures may add up to greater risk for heart attack among women

February 28, 2018
Higher waist and hip size are more strongly associated with heart attack risk than overall obesity, especially among women, according to research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the ...

Study shows so-called 'healthy obesity' is harmful to cardiovascular health

September 11, 2017
Clinicians are being warned not to ignore the increased cardiovascular health risks of those who are classed as either 'healthy obese' or deemed to be 'normal weight' but have metabolic abnormalities such as diabetes.

For most 'healthy' obese, health declines over time

January 5, 2015
The idea of "healthy" obesity is a misleading concept in that most obese individuals become progressively less healthy over time, according to a study that tracked the health of more than 2,500 men and women for 20 years. ...

Is metabolically healthy obesity a worthwhile initial medical goal?

September 15, 2017
Worldwide, nearly one in three individuals is obese. As a consequence, increasing numbers of people suffer from diseases associated with morbid overweight, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. ...

Study of 3.5 million people shows 'healthy' obese people are still at higher risk of cardiovascular disease events

May 17, 2017
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal (17-20) May shows that so called 'metabolically healthy' obese people are still at higher risk of cardiovascular disease events such ...

Recommended for you

Obesity linked to increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer

October 12, 2018
Women who are overweight or obese have up to twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer before age 50 as women who have what is considered a normal body mass index (BMI), according to new research led by Washington University ...

The metabolome: A way to measure obesity and health beyond BMI

October 11, 2018
The link between obesity and health problems may seem apparent. People who are obese are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and heart disease. But increasingly, researchers are learning that the connection ...

Being overweight or obese in your 20s will take years off your life, according to a new report

October 10, 2018
Young adults classified as obese in Australia can expect to lose up to 10 years in life expectancy, according to a major new study.New modelling from The George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney also ...

Asthma may contribute to childhood obesity epidemic

October 9, 2018
Toddlers with asthma are more likely to become obese children, according to an international study led by USC scientists.

'Genes are not destiny' when it comes to weight

October 9, 2018
A healthy home environment could help offset children's genetic susceptibilities to obesity, according to new research led by UCL.

What did americans eat today? A third would say fast food

October 3, 2018
(HealthDay)—Americans' love affair with fast food continues, with 1 in every 3 adults chowing down on the fare on any given day.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.