The vast majority of us wish we had a smaller pant size. Whether obese or not, there is a tendency to associate leanness with good health. But according to a recent study, this may not always be the case.
According to research from York University, simply carrying excess weight does not necessarily harm your health. Known as metabolic healthy obesity, researchers have found that certain people with obesity, but no other metabolic risk factors, do not have an increased risk of death.
In the study, 54,089 obese men and women from five cohort studies were categorized into groups, depending on obesity and their other risk factors, or lack thereof. And what they found was potentially game-changing. While high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension alone can increase mortality risk, the same does not seem to be true for obesity.
According to Jennifer Kuk, who led the research team, “We found that a person of normal weight with no other metabolic risk factors is just as likely to die as the person with obesity and no other risk factors,” says Kuk. “This means that hundreds of thousands of people in North America alone with metabolically healthy obesity will be told to lose weight when it’s questionable how much benefit they’ll actually receive.”
Current guidelines recommend that anyone with a BMI over 30 needs to lose weight, which implies that obesity on its own is unhealthy. Not only is BMI a horrible way to determine health, this study confirms that weight alone does not indicate poor health. While the majority of those suffering from obesity have other metabolic problems that lead to poor health, researchers found that 1 out of 20 obese individuals had metabolic healthy obesity, which is not dangerous on its own.
A lot of people live very healthy lifestyles, yet they carry quite a bit of extra weight on their frames. This doesn’t mean that they are lazy or unhealthy. For some people, it is just how their bodies are designed. In contrast, it’s also true that leaner people can be dangerously unhealthy, as explained with the ‘skinny fat’ phenomenon. This is when a person has very unhealthy lifestyle habits, but remains lean and fit-looking on the outside, allowing people to assume they are healthy. But, these types of people can sometimes have a dangerous build-up of visceral fat around their organs, which is even more damaging and dangerous than having a bit of a pooch in the belly.
What you look like on the outside is not necessarily a barometer for your inner health, and now we have research to back it up. Live a healthy lifestyle—eat clean plant foods, move your body regularly, find ways to manage stress, have a healthy social life, and practice positivity and gratitude. That’s the key to good health, not a smaller pant size.