‘Fat but fit’ isn’t possible, warn scientists

There is no such thing as ‘healthy obesity’

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 12 September 2017 09:00
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Obese people who appear healthy are 96 per cent more likely to develop heart failure.

Being “fat but fit” puts you at a greater risk of developing fatal diseases, a new study has revealed.

Despite boasting more than 7,000 posts on Instagram under the eponymous hashtag, obese people who seem fit and healthy are more likely to develop heart failure, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease.

The five-year-long study, conducted at the University of Birmingham, compared the health levels of an overweight person, who was otherwise healthy, with someone of a normal weight to see whether they were as fit as each other.

Participants’ health levels were defined by their BMIs.

Underweight people were classified by having a BMI of 18.5 or under; overweight people came in somewhere between 25 and 30 whereas obese people had BMIs of 30 and above. Those between 18.5 and 25 were defined as normal in terms of weight.

Scientists found that individuals who are “metabolically healthy obese” (they do not suffer from metabolic abnormalities like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure) were more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases compared to participants who were at a normal weight.

The new findings differ substantially from previous studies, which have claimed that one in three obese people are “healthy” despite carrying excess weight.

Research like this is what experts believe led to the glorification of the term “fat but fit,” which implied that overweight people could be just as fit and healthy as normal weight people.

Dr Rishi Caleyachetty, the study’s author, has urged people to stop using phrases like "fat but fit" which inadvertently advocate obesity.

"Metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and it would be incorrect to think so. It's actually better not to use this term as it can create a lot of confusion,” he explained.

The confusion may be particularly prevalent in the UK, which was recently hailed as “the fat man of Europe” after research from the UN Food and Agriculture organisation revealed that as many as one in four British adults are obese.

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