Fit but Fat: Myth or Fact?

There has been a misnomer circulating for years, and some studies to back it up, that some people can be overweight but still be healthy. However, a new study published in the European Heart Journal led by researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge reveals that being “fit but fat” is just a myth.

Researchers studied more than half a million people in 10 European countries and found that obese people who had normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels did not necessarily have healthy hearts. When researchers reexamined these individuals 12 years later, over 7,500 of them had coronary heart disease. One of the risk factors was their weight. Someone with coronary heart disease experiences symptoms such as angina, heart attack, and heart failure.

When compared to people with a normal weight, those classified as healthy but overweight had a 26 percent increase in heart disease. Those who were obese had a 28 percent increased risk. Those who were overweight with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar were labeled “metabolically unhealthy” and had even bigger health risks.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Camille Lassale, noted: “Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors. Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor.

“Overall, our findings challenge the concept of the ‘healthy obese’. The research shows that those overweight individuals who appear to be otherwise healthy are still at increased risk of heart disease.”

People that carry too much fat on their bodies can encounter health problems later in life, even if they’re not currently exhibiting signs of distress. Issues such as high blood pressure and increased glucose levels will take their toll over time, so it’s important that they don’t get caught up in the idea that “fit but fat” is a healthy practice.

Lassale added that health practitioners should advise obese and overweight patients to live a healthier lifestyle even if their metabolic factors are normal. If these individuals don’t lose weight, eventually their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels will become a problem and they are more likely to get heart disease.

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