Gerry and Parekura can relax – their bulk doesn’t necessarily increase their health risks

“Check out my metabolism before weaning me off the Big Macs…”

Gotta find Gerry and Parekura and tell them the good news.

Well, encouraging news.

A bunch of researchers are saying nearly half of fat people are just as healthy as slim people – and no more at risk of developing heart problems or cancer.

They also reckon overweight and obese people should not fight the flab after having a heart attack because they are more likely to outlive their leaner counterparts.

Fair to say, though, that Gerry and Parekura would need to find if they have a certain metabolism.

The findings (as reported here) show there is a subset of obese people who are metabolically healthy.

They don’t suffer from conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes and high cholesterol or blood pressure.

And they have a higher level of fitness, as measured by how well the heart and lungs perform, than other obese people.

Being obese does not seem to have a detrimental effect on their health, and doctors should bear this in mind when considering what, if any, interventions are required, say the researchers.

“It is well known that obesity is linked to a large number of chronic disease such as cardiovascular problems and cancer. However, there appears to be a sub-set of obese people who seem to be protected from obesity-related metabolic complications,” said the first author of the study, Dr Francisco Ortega (PhD).

“They may have greater cardio-respiratory fitness than other obese individuals, but, until now, it was not known the extent to which these metabolically healthy but obese people are at lower risk of diseases or premature death.”

The research has been published online in the European Heart Journal.

Dr Ortega is a research associate affiliated to the Department of Physical Activity and Sport, University of Granada (Spain), and at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden), although the project and investigation took place at the University of South Carolina (Columbia, USA) under the direction of Professor Steven Blair.

This Blair feller is responsible for the long-running “Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study” (ACLS) which provided the 43,265 participants for this current analysis.

No doubt they figured they would find more fatties in the US elsewhere, and while our Parliament does have a few, maybe there are not enough to provide the necessary statistical sample.

Anyway, the participants were recruited to the ACLS between 1979 and 2003.

They completed a detailed questionnaire, including information on their medical and lifestyle history, and they had a physical examination that included a treadmill test to assess cardio-respiratory fitness and measurements of height, weight, waist circumference, and their percentage of body fat.

Body fat percentage (BF%) was measured either by calculating the amount of water displaced when the person was completely submerged (the method that is considered the most accurate), or by taking the sum of seven skin fold measures (when folds of skin are pinched between measurement callipers).

Blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting glucose levels were also measured. The study participants were followed until they died or until the end of 2003.

Alf is not prone to reading medical journals, online or off, by the way.

Fair to say, he learned this stuff from the Daily Mail (here)

The study – which is the largest of its kind – abolishes the notion that obesity automatically leads to ill-health.

It shows that some fat people manage to remain ‘metabolically healthy’ even though their body mass index would suggest they are not.

They have less risk of dying prematurely than unhealthy obese people and up to half the risk of developing or dying from heart disease or cancer.

Other research suggests that, among those with heart problems, those who are underweight or even normal weight are actually worse off than those who are fat.

These findings should dampen the zeal – just a bit – of those lobbyists and campaigners who are frenetically engaged in a war against what they claim is an obesity epidemic.

One bunch of zealots have even set up a website (here) from which they serve a carefully chosen diet of news on the subject.

Anything about the need to regulate the food industry typically gets a big heart tick from these earnest do-gooders.

Or moves to restrict food advertising.

Dunno if they will bother telling their readers that maybe the obesity epidemic isn’t quite as worrying as they would have us believe.

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