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Scientists bust myth of ‘healthy obese’

A new study has shown that extra weight could raise a person’s risk of coronary heart disease, even if they are otherwise healthy.

The latest findings of a study, published in the European Heart Journal, add to a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests being ‘fat but fit’ is a myth, and that people should aim to maintain a healthy body weight within a healthy range.

Even bodybuilders who store too much fat in the off-season are at risk of suffering from negative metabolic changes such as an increase in blood pressure as well as altered cholesterol and high blood sugar levels.

“Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors. Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor,” says researcher Dr. Camille Lassale who was part of a team led by Imperial College London and Cambridge University scientists who probed data of more than half a million people in 10 European countries.

At risk of heart disease

Scientists looked at the link between excess weight and the risk of coronary heart disease. The latter is described as a condition where not enough blood gets through to the heart due to clogged arteries which could result in a heart attack. Body weight was classified according to definitions from the World Health Organization.

Lassale and colleagues found that compared to those at normal weight, participants in the study who were classified as healthy but overweight had an increased risk of 26 percent of contracting coronary heart disease while those who were healthy but obese had an increased risk of 28 percent.

“Overall, our findings challenge the concept of the ‘healthy obese’. The research shows that those overweight individuals who appear to be otherwise healthy are still at increased risk of heart disease, ” says Lassale.

The excess weight itself may not be increasing the risk of heart disease directly but indirectly through mechanisms such as high blood pressure and glucose levels.

Previous studies have revealed some overweight people appear to lack the adverse health effects of excess weight, leading to scientists classifying them as ‘metabolically healthy obese’ or more commonly known as ‘fat but fit’.

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