Study: ‘Healthy Overweight’ a Myth

When it comes to long-term health, sorry, but you probably can’t have your cake and eat it, too. According to new research, recent suggestions that it’s possible to be overweight or obese without increased health risks are wrong, and concepts such as “benign obesity” aren’t supported by data.

Writing in Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers reported on their analysis of more than 1000 studies on weight and health outcomes, as well as study participants’ “metabolic status,” or whether they were considered to have healthy or unhealthy levels of cholesterol, insulin resistance, inflammatory markers, and other measurements known to increase disease risk.

The investigation concerning metabolic status was key, because suggestions of benign obesity have hinged on the theory that, as long as your metabolic status remains healthy, being overweight doesn’t increase your chances of cardiovascular events or earlier death.

When health outcomes were tracked for long enough, being significantly overweight with a healthy metabolic status was still worse than being of normal weight and with a healthy metabolic status. “Metabolically healthy obese individuals had increased risk for events compared with metabolically healthy normal-weight individuals when only studies with 10 or more years of follow-up were considered,” the researchers wrote.

This is probably because being overweight leads to developing metabolic risk factors and vascular dysfunction that aren’t significant enough to warrant immediate medical attention, but that over time can have dire consequences, the researchers wrote.

Their findings suggest “that there is no healthy pattern of increased weight,” the researchers concluded.

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