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Is ‘Healthy Obesity’ a Myth?

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The term “metabolically healthy obese” refers to people with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, but without the typical obesity-related health issues such as insulin resistance, lipid disorders, or hypertension. Between 10 and 25 percent of the obese population can be considered metabolically healthy.

But are these folks actually healthy?

Researchers found that metabolically healthy obese people’s risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity-related death hovers somewhere between the higher risks faced by unhealthy obese people and lower risks of healthy people with a BMI less than 25. People with a normal weight have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.

Although exercise can help metabolically healthy obese people ward off heart disease, researchers are hesitant to classify this type of obesity as safe. That’s because obesity is a serious concern overall. It is consistently associated with poorer physical and mental health. Plus, people who are obese are more likely to experience a reduced quality of life and a higher risk for various health issues, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Some cancers
  • Depression
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stroke

The places where you store your excess body weight also affect your health. For example, women whose waists are more than 35 inches have a higher risk for such health problems.

If you want to lose weight to improve your health, start by balancing the number of calories you eat with exercise. Weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you consume. It takes about 3,500 calories to lose a pound of body fat. You can lose one to two pounds per week by avoiding or burning 500 to 1,000 calories per day.

Burn more calories with cardiovascular exercise at least 50 minutes three times per week or about 22 minutes each day. Try brisk walking or biking. Balance your cardio routine with muscle-strengthening workouts at least two days a week to work all your major muscle groups, such as your legs and arms.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.