Thursday, August 14, 2008

For Health, Body Size Can Be Misleading

“Many overweight and obese people are metabolically healthy, while large numbers of slim people have health problems typically associated with obesity, a new study shows. The findings, based on national health data collected from 5,440 adults, shows that weight often is not a reliable barometer for health. In addition to looking at height and weight, the study, published this week in The Archives of Internal Medicine, tracked blood pressure, ‘good’ cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and an inflammatory marker called c-reactive protein, all of which are viewed as indicators of cardiovascular health. Overall, thin people were still metabolically healthier than people who were overweight or obese. But being a normal weight was not a reliable indicator of health. In the study, about 24 percent of thin adults, or about 16 million people, posted unhealthy levels for at least two of the risk factors. By comparison, among the overweight, about half the people had two or more of the risk factors. But half of them were also metabolically healthy. And nearly one out of three obese people were also metabolically fit. While it’s long been known that it’s better to be fit and fat than being thin and sedentary, the new data are believed to be the first time researchers have documented the unreliability of body size as an indicator for overall health. Study author MaryFran Sowers, a University of Michigan obesity researcher, told The Associated Press that the results show that stereotypes about body size can be misleading, and that even ‘ ’less voluptuous'’ people can have risk factors commonly associated with obesity. Dr. Sowers said that when it comes to weight and health risks, ‘We’re really talking about taking a look with a very different lens.’”

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