Fat But Fit Paradox
You work out regularly, eat well and yet are over-weight and fat! You blame your metabolism for weight or your genes for it. But the point is, are you still healthier than normal weight non-exercising people? Is weight really a good indicator for heath and future risk of lifestyle diseases?
There is a lot of controversy regarding the ‘Metabolically Healthy Obese (MHO)’ individuals, and that their fitness levels should be taken into consideration while assessing their risk for various diseases. There have been a few optimistic researches describing the importance of regular structured physical exercise over low body fat percentage. But these have yet to get accepted and collaborated with longitudinal studies.
The fat-but-fit paradox refers to individuals who are obese or overweight. But their level of cardio-respiratory fitness is moderate to high. Researches suggest that fat-but-fit adults are not at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, heart attacks, stroke, and high cholesterol levels etc in comparison to their normal weight unfit counterparts. In adolescents and children, the researches have shown inconsistent results. Some experts say that such individuals are at a point where the risk is still high. But the disease has not developed yet.
The advantage of being active is that MHO is at a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome when compared with their inactive counterparts. Though the benefits of exercise are nullified when individuals are significantly overweight. It has been observed that, obese persons are more prone to different diseases. Though they exercised regularly, they have more chances of mortality too. According to researches, low Body Mass Index at a younger age reduces the risk of diseases in later ages.
MHO individuals without any other risk factors are considered to be at a point where they have not developed any co-morbidities. But they are still likely to develop them sooner than normal weight individuals. Metabolically healthy obesity signals an opportunity for weight reduction, with better chances of achieving a lower BMI and prevention and management of existing metabolic syndrome components.
Despite some conflicting research and unexplained heterogeneity in overweight populations in the literature, British and European studies say that, “accumulating evidence is leaning toward the consensus that MHO is not a low-risk state compared with metabolically healthy normal weight. But, they conceded that cardiorespiratory fitness was an important factor for predicting long-term prognosis. Thus MHO individuals had better chances at long term health as compared to unfit individuals. They have also stated that one cannot take weight as an independent risk factor and can consider with cardio-respiratory fitness, CVD risk and metabolic syndrome.”