Is being overweight or obese a benign condition?

Usually we think that just being a little overweight is not really bad for our health, right? What is termed being fat and fit is now the new normal for Americans. But, is it really benign, or does it carry health consequences.

First we must determine if we are overweight or obese. Here is a link to a BMI chart that is published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)  check it out. Normally speaking being 10 or more pounds over normal weight in the chart is being “overweight”. More that say 20 to 25 pounds above the normal is being “obese”.

Now that we have determined where we fall on the charts, let’s talk about what that might mean to our health. Can we really be ‘fat and fit’?

A study just published in “Annals of Internal Medicine”, December 3, 2013 (volume 159, pages 758-769) sheds some light on the subject. Normally being overweight or obese does increase the risk for heart disease and death. And then along comes a few studies that suggest that being overweight or obese might not be such a problem if there are no “metabolic problems” evident in the patient. What are these metabolic problems? Having high blood pressure, high lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides), high blood sugar, and having a large waist circumference. These symptoms are collectively termed ‘metabolic syndrome’.

The researchers in this article set out to determine if we are at higher risk if we are overweight and have the metabolic syndrome, and more importantly, if we do not have the pattern of metabolic syndrome. Collectively they gathered information on 61,386 individuals from 8 prior studies.

What they found is very interesting to say the least. They found that the risk for heart disease or death was increased for individuals who were obese whether they had metabolic syndrome or not. Of more interest, they found that individuals with metabolic syndrome had increased risk regardless of whether they were normal weight, overweight or obese. Yes, skinny people can have metabolic syndrome too.

What we get from this study is the fact that maintaining a normal weight is very important for longevity. Another fact that came from this study is the even if your are normal weight and have the metabolic syndrome you are at higher risk for heart disease and death.

How do we know if we have the metabolic syndrome? Regular monitoring of blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as blood sugar, including the Hgb A1c, and weight, especially the waist size. Blood pressure is the easiest to monitor, the other parameters are done through blood work. These are the key items that we watch, even in those ‘skinny’ individuals. If signs of metabolic syndrome are present, then we have to embark on a ‘life changing’ journey. This is all part of what we do at Doctor’s Nutrition everyday. We call it ‘evidence based nutrition’, and it truly can be life changing. Some simple blood work will provide the information you need to make course corrections on this journey.

I was recently asked; Can you really be healthy and overweight? I hate to say it, but the answer is most probably, no. Too much evidence points to health issues that we have not discovered yet. Hopefully in the near future we will have all the answers, but for now the odds are in favor of being normal weight and healthy.




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