Many ‘Healthy Obese’ Don’t Stay Healthy

18 Jan

By Nicholas Bakalar

The idea of “healthy obesity”–that there
are obese people who are
nevertheless in good health, with
normal cholesterol levels, blood
pressure and other metabolic risk
factors–has gained traction in
recent years. But a small study
suggests this apparently healthy
state of affairs does not last.

The analysis, published in the Journal
of the American College of
Cardiology, studied 2,521 people,
including 66 obese adults who were
in good health. Researchers examined
them periodically over the next
20 years, assessing five measures of
metabolic health: cholesterol,
triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting
glucose levels and insulin

As defined by abnormalities in two or
more of the measures, the
progression from healthy to unhealthy
obesity steadily increased
over time. By the end of the study, 51
percent of the healthy obese
were unhealthy, and they were almost
eight times as likely to arrive
at unhealthy obesity as the healthy
adults who were not obese.

“‘Healthy obesity’ is quite a misleading
term,” said the lead
author, Joshua A. Bell, a doctoral
candidate at University College
London. “It sounds safe, but we know
that it’s only healthy in a
relative sense. The healthy obese
become unhealthy and progress into
the highest risk group. This is a real
challenge to the idea that
the obese can be healthy in the long


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