The Idea of 'Healthy Obesity' is Misleading and Risky, Study Shows

The Idea of 'Healthy Obesity' is Misleading and Risky, Study Shows

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

By the end of the study, approximately half of the obese adults had metabolic indicators of poor health. 

A new study published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology suggests that, contrary to the “intense interest” surrounding the concept of “healthy” obesity, those who are obese are nearly eight times more likely to “progress to an unhealthy obese state after 20 years than healthy non-obese adults.”

Healthy obesity, therefore — defined as “obesity in the absence of metabolic risk factor clustering,” such as high cholesterol, blood pressure, and insulin resistance — was found to last only a short while before the subjects transitioned.

Out of 2,521 subjects profiled during the study, 66 were obese adults who were identified as being in good health at the start of research. By the end of the study two decades later, 51 percent of the healthy obese subjects were unhealthy, defined by poor results in two or more of the  measures of metabolic health: cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting glucose levels and insulin resistance. Only 10 percent had become healthily non-obese.

“‘Healthy obesity’ is quite a misleading term,” Joshua A. Bell, a doctoral candidate at University College London and the paper’s lead author, told The New York Times.

“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 term.”

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