The Myth of Healthy Obesity by Dr. James Yang


By Preventative Medicine and Wellness Expert, James Yang, MD, MPH

A new, just published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides the best evidence yet to answer the question, “Can you be overweight or obese and still be healthy?”

Previous studies had suggested that overweight and obese people could still avoid the harm of their condition as long as they exercised and stayed “metabolically fit.”  However, recent studies, including this large study, argue persuasively that the bulk of the evidence clearly shows that overweight or obese people are at an increased risk of heart disease despite being metabolically normal.

Dr. Caroline Kramer, MD and colleagues of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital used data from eight studies totaling 61,386 patients to understand the risk of weight on death and cardiovascular health.  They found that when they looked at long-term studies that followed subjects for at least 10 years, metabolically healthy obese individuals- with normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels- still had a 24% increase in cardiovascular events or death compared to metabolically healthy normal weight subjects.

While the idea that one can be perfectly healthy despite being overweight or obese may not be entirely true, these obese individuals did a lot better than their lean but metabolically unhealthy counterparts who had an increase risk of over 300%!  In the end, maintaining metabolic health through exercise and diet is the most important mediator of health, but weight still counts.  Please talk to your doctor for expert advice on how to prevent heart disease through a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight.