Diet and Exercise: Fit and Fat Confirmed?

Health Professional

About five years ago there was a lot of speculation about whether or not you could be overweight and still considered fit. I haven't heard as much about this lately, but came across a study conducted in the Netherlands which found some obese individuals to not be at increased risk for heart disease due to their weight.

I'm going to share what they learned because I don't want you to start seeing headlines saying you can be fat and still be fit and start thinking it's okay to remain a couch potato.

The Study

Dutch researchers identified a subset of 1,325 obese individuals, between the ages of 28 to 75 years-old, from the 8,356 participants in the Dutch PREVEND (Prevention of Renal and Vascular Endstage Disease) study. Out of the 1,325 obese individuals only 90 were determined to be "metabolically healthy".

Metabolically healthy means the participants did not have risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, or the use of cholesterol lowering medication. Their cardiovascular risk is not elevated like that of the typical obese individual. According to this long term study, individuals that are obese and still metabolically healthy make up a small percentage of the obese population.

The Dutch study found only 6.8 percent of obese individuals in a larger population are metabolically healthy.

The Results

Over a 7 ½ year period only 1 out of the 90 individuals developed cardiovascular disease. This is a percentage of 1.1 percent and comparable to the risk for heart disease for overweight healthy individuals (1.3 percent) and normal weight individuals (0.6 percent).

The Take Away

So, yes, there are individuals who are obese and do not live with the standard elevated risk for heart disease. However, it's worth noting they still risk other complications due to the excess weight, such as joint issues. Also, obese individuals, regardless of metabolic health need to regularly have a risk profile evaluation to stay on top of any potential complications.

I want you to really understand this applies to a very small percent of the population. If you are overweight or obese I still encourage you to simply assume you are at increased risk and take steps to lose weight and reduce your heart disease risk.

A few steps to promote weight loss include:

  1. Increase physical activity throughout your daily routine (i.e. park further from your office door, take the stairs instead of the elevator)

  2. Cut back on dining out (i.e. pack a lunch for work)

  3. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables within reach

  4. Clean out your cupboards and eliminate foods that don't support heart health

  5. Cut back on TV time (just how many hours do you log each day in front of the tv?)

The list of steps you can take to promote weight loss and reduce heart disease risk goes on and on. Take it one step and a time

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