‘Fat but fit’ – From Theory to Myth

Findings from University of Birmingham presented this week provided evidence to suggest that the possibility of being ‘fat but fit’ is all but a myth. The findings, presented the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal, suggested that people who are obese are at an increased risk of heart failure and stroke without the prior warnings of hypertension and diabetes.

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Introduction

Findings from University of Birmingham presented this week provided evidence to suggest that the possibility of being ‘fat but fit’ is all but a myth (1).

The findings, presented the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal, suggested that people who are obese are at an increased risk of heart failure and stroke without the prior warnings of hypertension and diabetes.

The study involved 3.5 million people in the UK who had their medical records examined from 1995 to 2015. The patients were divided into three groups dependent on their BMI and whether they had the comorbidities of diabetes, hypertension or hyperlipidaemia. Researchers then tracked how many people suffered either a heart attack, heart failure, cerebrovascular disease and peripheral vascular disease.

The study found that those patients who were obese, who previously did not have any of the aforementioned comorbidities, had a 50% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared to those of a normal weight. There was 96% increased risk of heart failure and a 7% increased risk of cerebrovascular disease.

Similar results have been found in smaller trials in an attempt to dispel the theory that it is possible to be healthy, yet obese. Previous evidence has suggested this is a possibility, with obese but active people at a lower risk than thinner but more inactive people.

The findings from this large study, however, may be the final nail in the coffin for the theory of being ‘fat but fit’ and may signal an even more firm stance on obesity. Only this month has the World Obesity Federation (WOF) has officially recognised obesity as a disease because of the number of health problems associated with it (2).

A review into obesity earlier this year found that the estimate of elevated BMI-caused deaths costs the public £3.6 billion per year (3), with 7.1% of deaths attributed to obesity and an average of 12 years lost on average.

Despite obesity being a top public health priority for a number of years, the results from this study alongside the declaration from the WOF may lead to a tougher stance being taken on obesity in the coming year.

References

(1) http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2017/05/’Healthy-obesity’-is-a-myth-study-suggests.aspx
(2) http://www.worldobesity.org/news/wo-blog/may-2017/obesity-as-a-disease/
(3) https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Obesity-and-the-Public-Purse-PDF.pdf

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