Good News. You Can Be Fat. . . and Healthy!

Sounds like stealing a car and then being invited to join a country club.  But studies are now showing that people who are fat -- and fit -- are no more unhealthy than people who are skinny and fit (well, maybe, thin and fit).

The study, done by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital's Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, tracked more than 60,000 participants' weights and metabolic health. In each of the eight studies, participants were followed up after an extended period of time -- ranging from three to 30 years -- to see if they had either died or had a stroke or heart attack during the intervening years, according to Anna Almendraia at the Huffington Post. "Overweight and healthy is not too good to be true in the context of this study," she writes.

She points to news reports on major media, including NBC News and NPR, which stated the exact opposite this week and calls them out on it.

"NBC's headline -- 'New Research Disputes Fat But Fit Claim' -- is simply wrong because the meta-analysis didn't take physical fitness into account, so "fat but fit" (where fit means being physically fit) was never actually tested," Almendraia notes. "NPR's is just inaccurate; in fact, the meta-analysis showed that overweight, healthy people's risks were so similar to the control group's risks that the difference was statistically insignificant."

While he grants some of the proof points may not be statistically significant, "It does suggest that if you're looking at only people who are [metabolically] unhealthy, it's better to be fatter than thinner," Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., an exercise and wellness professor at Arizona State University, tells Almendraia.

But one of the researchers, Dr. Caroline K. Kramer, M.D., Ph.D.,  of Mount Sinai and the lead study author, says the conclusion of the study is not that obese and fit people are healthy; those who are obese but "metabolically healthy" still have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and early death.

 "[The study] is junk science," Gaesser tells Almendraia. "It fails to factor in the very important, well-established contribution of cardiorespiratory fitness to overall health. The fact that they did not [include fitness] renders this study almost uninterpretable."

He notes that some studies have even found that thin, unfit people had twice the mortality risk as obese fit people. "This study, statistically speaking, assumes that all fat people, all thin people and everyone in between are of equal fitness, equal physical activity levels and have the same diets," Almendraia quotes Gaesser. "And that's just an absurd assumption."

Almendraia gives Gaessner the last word.  ""It's much easier to get a fat person fit than it is to get a fat person thin. And that's a good thing, because fitness may be much more rewarding than thinness alone."


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