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Fit and fat: US study shows it's possible

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Old 08-12-2008, 01:36 AM   #1
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Default Fit and fat: US study shows it's possible

Fit and fat: US study shows it's possible
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WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - It may be possible to be both fat and healthy, researchers reported on Monday, for at least half of overweight adults, and close to a third of obese men and women, have normal blood pressure, cholesterol and other measures of heart health.

Wylie-Rosett's team looked at data on 5,440 men and women who were examined and filled out questionnaires for the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys between 1999 and 2004. Most did not exercise very much.

They found just over 51 percent of those who were overweight, and 31.7 percent of those who were obese, had healthy levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and other measures linked to heart disease.

But when Wylie-Rosett's team measured waist circumference, a common way to estimate visceral fat, more than 36 percent of the obese people with what should have been dangerously large waists had healthy blood test results.
Keep in mind, though, that some problems don't show up until later in life, so the healthy tests on 1/3 of the obese participants might not show the whole picture. Still, it may be that this starts the medical community thinking about whether treating obesity at all costs is really worth it, health-wise.
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Old 08-12-2008, 02:05 AM   #2
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Old 08-12-2008, 08:17 AM   #3
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What the researchers looked at -- blood lipids, blood pressure and other indicators of current heart disease -- is only a small snapshot of health. It's not measuring the damage that numerous studies have linked obesity to:
  • osteoarthritis and joint damage
  • the unconverted cancer risks, especially endometrium, gallbladder, uterine, cervix, ovary, and breast in females; colorectum and prostate in males
  • sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • reflux and other gastrointestinal issues
  • depression
  • infertility and menstrual irregularities
  • pulmonary embolism and other circulatory problems


and many other major and minor health issues. Even if our lipid blood tests, blood glucose, and blood pressure are normal now for a fortunate 1/3 of obese individuals, it's no proof that every day that we remain obese isn't irreparably harming our bodies in ways that may not show up for years or decades.

I'm a living, breathing example of the damage obesity can do to our bodies that may not show up for a long time, even after we've lost the weight and are living a healthy lifestyle. In two days, I'm getting both of my knees replaced due to severe arthritis. At age 53! And I have severe arthritis in my back, leading to a variety of other issues. My knee doctor was mystified about how I could have such horrendous arthritis when he first meet me because what he saw was a normal weight, active, fit personal trainer and it just didn't add up. He kept shaking his head and saying that I had the knees and back of an 80-year old but I was so young and fit. So I told him about the two decades of morbid obesity and it was like a lightbulb going off in his head. Every doctor I've talked to has been certain that the severity of my arthritis is due to my weight. Even though I woke up and lost the weight seven years ago, the damage was done. And I'm paying the price today. BTW, all my blood tests and BP were completely normal while I was obese -- so much for Fit and Fat?
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Old 08-12-2008, 08:28 AM   #4
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Hmm... maybe I'm just being dense, but I'm kind of confused about the positive spin on this. That basically means that almost 70% of obese people have unhealthy levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure etc. as compared to roughly 25% of normal weight persons, right?

These percentages would suggest to me that while obesity is not an automatic death sentence (at least not short term), it would still increase my health chances substantially to get my weight into an overweight or, ideally, normal weight range. OK, it is possible to be healthy and obese, but how likely is it? Conversely, of course there are normal-weight people with enormously unhealthy lifestyles and unfortunate genetic makeup.

And, as Amanda has pointed out, age plays an important role too - it would be interesting to see this additional correlation actually. In my years as a morbidly obese chain smoker I never had any serious medical issues, no high BP, no problematic blood sugar or cholesterol - but then again, I was in my early twenties...
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Old 08-12-2008, 09:19 AM   #5
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I believe that it catches up to you eventually! Smokers are ruirning their lungs and it doesn't show untill they get a serious lung condition or Ca. That didn't happen overnight, it came from years of smoking. Same thing with being over weight. For them to publish something like that is not being responsible. Now over weight people will use it as an excuse not to lose weight.
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:42 AM   #6
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Plus, it's about risk factors. Saying that obesity is a risk factor is not the same as saying all obese people are unhealthy.

Smoking is a big risk factor for lung cancer. It's certainly enough to keep most of us from smoking. But most smokers don't get lung cancer.
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:58 AM   #7
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Hmm... well, I personally think it is possible to be fit and fat, BUT I think that level of fitness/health can only be achieved by those who are either just overweight for their heights or SLIGHTLY obese. Meaning, I am 5'4" tall and 186-190lbs, which means according to the bmi charts, I have 32% bodyfat and I am obese (grumble... grumble...) but only slightly -- 2 percentage points away from being "overweight." I think I can be both fat and healthy -- I was thinking recently that given how long I've been stuck at this weight, no matter how I eat, how careful I am, and how much I exercise, may NEVER get to goal weight... maybe it's time for me to not give up, but accept the fact that I might always hover around 186lbs. That's not to say I won't workout and watch what I eat, track carbs and calories, build muscle, run, etc. but I may NEVER lose 45 more lbs... BUT I think that I can be healthy anyway, if I keep up with my exercise and with my healthy eating habits. I also think this is possible for someone with 29% bodyfat who is overweight. I'm not saying I *WILL* remain healthy as I age, but I think it's possible to do so if you're SLIGHTLY obese or overweight.

BUT I do not think that someone who is massively obese can stay healthy forever, even if they do workout and watch what they eat. I think most of these folk, if they don't lose weight, will eventually suffer from their weight even if they don't when they're young. Of course, that's not 100% either, but I think for the most part it's true.

Anyway, I just don't think we can make a blanket statement "ANYONE who's obese, be it by 1 percentage point or 50 percentage points, has equal potential to get sick bc they're heavy."

At least, that's my take. Granted, I'm only 24 now, but I'm fit as a fiddle -- my Dr was actually impressed by my bloodwork and said i was healthy even compared to other 24 year olds. But then, everyone is different.

Edit: also, I think it'd be interesting to see what percentage of average/normal weight people are actually physically fit -- not everyone who is thin works out, eat healthily, etc. or has a developed muscular or cardio-vascular system.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KLK View Post
Edit: also, I think it'd be interesting to see what percentage of average/normal weight people are actually physically fit -- not everyone who is thin works out, eat healthily, etc. or has a developed muscular or cardio-vascular system.
Very important point. You can't put the obesity/health statistic in perspective without this information also.
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Old 08-12-2008, 02:11 PM   #9
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I think the positive spin on this is that if a person is thinking (understandably, as many of us have been there) "why bother trying to lose weight, it never works for me, I'll always be fat, then this information says "well, you may never be thin - but you can be fit, get off that couch and DO something."

And the thing is a very active lifestyle has health benefits, no matter what your weight. A 180 lb woman who sits on the couch all day and eats junk is not going to be the same as an 180 lb woman who eats a well balanced diet and is very athletic.

Sometimes we look at fat as if it's the only part of the picture, and that's just as wrong as saying it doesn't belong in the picture at all.

If a person can't imagine themselves losing weight, then exercise and eating healthier is STILL a wonderful choice (and probably will result in a substantial weight loss as a side benefit).

I look at my own history, and trying to get the weight off at ALL COSTS probably is the main reason I got this HUGE. It wasn't until I was able to focus on the health issues as the main focus, and the fat as the secondary one that I was even ABLE to make real progress and not a series of crash diets.

I may never get to 130 lb, but that doesn't mean I can't become alot healthier than I am. And I think that we tend to forget that health AND fat exists on a spectrum. These studies don't say "how overweight" they are really dealing with. In our society, someone carrying an extra 5 or 10 lbs can be seen as "fat."

How much weight can a person carry and still be in good or even excellent health. It's ridiculous, I think to say "absolutely none." Although in our fat phobic society, it's easy for people to take this position. Each pound is not a death sentence, but how many pounds? That's a harder question to answer.

The point is too, that not everyone desires to be in "optimal" health. Reasonably good health, is an ok goal. Otherwise, we ALL would be Olympic athletes, but right now we're a culture of complete couch potatoes, and I think unfortunately part of it is a "what's the use" mentality, because we do tend to think that only perfection "counts" for anything.

I can't worry about whether I will ever reach my optimal weight, which probably would be around 130 lbs or less. I can't even envision 130 lbs, because the last time I was there was probably 3rd or 4th grade. To be THAT fat so early, especially with none of my family having been fat as a child so young (I was adopted), I strongly suspect that I have a genetic predisposition towards being overweight. That doesn't mean I'm predestined to being morbidly obese, but it may mean that my optimal weight, is going to be extremely difficult to reach. Almost impossible it seems at times - so I don't focus on getting to a healthy weight, I focus on changing my eating and exercising to get healthier.

I truly think that focusing on improving health through diet and exercise, eating healthier and moving more, is a lot more important than a number on the scale.

That being said, can a person MY size be healthy, or at least say healthier than half of the population as a whole (more healthy than not). I can't say "no" for certain, but I'd say it's unlikely. But - how many people my size are eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly (I mean really exercising, five or more days a week at an aerobic intensity for an hour or more).

We're in a national health crisis, I believe. We're only noticing it now because of the obesity rates, but the signs have been coming for some time now. Even among "normal weight" children, we're seeing a rise in type II diabetes (almost unheard of, just a few years ago). While addressing obesity is part of the problem, without addressing the need for healthier food choices (not just lower calorie ones) and the need for more physical activity (with so many schools eliminating both P.E. and recess) we may be overlooking the REAL problem.

We see it sometimes here, with people trying to lose the weight quickly and promising to "eat healthy and exercise" when they get to their ideal weight. I think the eating healthier and exercising more has to become a MORE important goal than simply the loss of body weight. At my size, losing the weight and doing nothing more could improve my health, but for people much smaller, wanting to lose a few pounds, I'm not sure that is always the case (and might not even be the case for ME - how I lose the weight, I think, does matter).

I think that too often, we want to simplify complex issues, but that rarely results in a "real" picture.
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Old 08-12-2008, 03:37 PM   #10
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Kaplods --

As usual, I think you're right-on.
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Old 08-12-2008, 08:41 PM   #11
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Hi guys, I think one key point of the study was also where the weight is carried or so the news report that I listened to reported. It has been stated again that if you carry your weight mainly in your stomach (apple shape) that you are more at risk for health issues CV disease, type 2 diabetes etc.
From personal experience- my husband carries his weight in his stomach-6 ft tall 240 lbs- all in his belly. He is relatively fit but still developed type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I put on weight all over from my toes on up. I was much more obese than he is, less fit but healthier. Who knows for how long, I am sure the clock was ticking.... but beware of stomach weight.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:43 AM   #12
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I'm one of the "fit and fat" by definition - thanks to playing hockey and cooking well for myself (my problem was not that I ate fatty foods, but that I ate too much of whatever I was having), I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and none of the ''fatty heart'' bit -- and I know that that's part of why Ive put off losing the weight for this this long.

If you look at my doctor's charts, purely by the numbers, the only two numbers that show I'm unhealthy are BMI and my weight. It took a long while for me to stop using that as an excuse.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:55 AM   #13
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Another thing to remember is that this all very focused on things like blood tests and BP as risk factors for heart disease. Obesity plays a part in so many other diseases, things a medical chart doesn't have simple risk factor tests for.

But I do think (hope!) medicine is moving in the direction of a more complete picture of health instead of focusing on a few select markers.
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