Over the past couple of years, there has been a raging debate about whether or not ‘’healthy obesity’’ is a thing. Basically, what it means is someone who is otherwise metabolically healthy but is still obese. The argument goes that if someone does not have any of the diseases associated with being obese but is still overweight, then they should be treated the same as someone who is not obese.
While this may seem okay on a surface level, it has larger implications from a public health perspective, in whose eyes, people who claim to be healthy but obese, are still at a higher risk of facing health issues compared to those who fall into the normal weight category. Moreover, a large number of studies prove that ‘’healthy obesity’’ is simply a myth, and these people are more or less still at large risk from facing a plethora of associated health scares. The idea that as long as you have normal cholesterol levels, blood pressure and are free from diabetes makes you safe from the diseases that are associated with obesity is simply wrong and is spreading misinformation to a large extent.
In a study conducted by the University College London, the researchers looked at data that had been collected over a period of almost 20 years. The first group, which consisted of close to 2500 people, had 66 people who were classified as ‘’healthy obese’’. However, more than half of the people who had initially started out in this category eventually moved onto the ‘’unhealthy obese’’ category over the next decade, and only a measly 6% of the people had lost enough weight to move onto the healthy but not obese category.
When the same researchers moved the study to cover a larger base of around 389 ‘’healthy obese’’ people, they again found that around 38% of the sample group moved into the non-healthy obese category over the next 10 years. After 20 years, this number had risen to 48% of the people, with only 10% of the initial healthy but obese participants losing enough weight to be non-obese. This proves that ‘’healthy obesity’’ is just a fleeting phase, which eventually almost always gives way to unhealthy obesity.
Another study based out of the UK monitored the data provided by around 3.5 people, who were all of ages 18 and above. The aim of this study was not only to find out if the healthy obese people were able to maintain their metabolically healthy profiles but also to find the relation between healthy obesity and associated health risks. Out of the initial 3.5 participants, around 15% of the people were classified as healthy obese.
Over a period of 5 years, it was found that around 11% of them eventually developed high blood pressure, 6% of had diabetes, and around 12% had abnormal fats in their body. The study also found that in comparison with the people who were in the normal weight category, the healthy obese had a doubled risk of heart failure, a risk of developing strokes that was 7% higher, and a 50% increased risk of heart-related diseases. This study also took into account various factors such as the participants’ socio-economic status, smoking patterns, age, and their sex, yet still conclusively proved that ‘’healthy obesity’’ is merely a myth.
Another factor that must be taken into account is the psychological factors surrounding healthy obesity. While they might be metabolically healthy, they are still subjected to the same stigma that surrounds unhealthy obesity, which also puts the healthy obese at the same risk of poor mental health. This in turn may have effects on their physical health as well, which in turn could again put them in the unhealthy obese category.
Most findings have repeatedly proven ‘’healthy obesity’’ to simply be a myth. These people are in no way safe from the risks associated with obesity and are usually more or less prone to finding their way through to the other side of the fence. They are at a higher risk of diseases when compared to their weight counterparts, and therefore should consider finding ways to reduce their weight so that they may be in the clear. Overall, it is safe to say that the debate can now be put to rest, and we must all accept that ‘’healthy obesity’’ will simply be and will remain a myth.