Obesity does not necessarily indicate poor physical or mental health

Obesity does not necessarily indicate poor physical or mental health

By Liz Lockhart

It is a myth that all overweight people are unhealthy according to a new study.  In fact, some obese people may be at a lower risk of some diseases than their thinner counterparts.

The new study was led by Professor Jennifer Kuk  from York University, Toronto.  Kuk and fellow researchers found that obese individuals who had mild physical, psychological or physiological impairment, or none at all, and who had a higher body weight in early adulthood, were happier with their higher body weight and had made fewer attempts to lose weight during their lives.

Perhaps what is surprising is that such people were also found to have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular causes such as stroke, heart attacks and heart failures than normal weight people.

Similarly this group of people were also more likely to be physically active and consume a healthy diet including a lot of vegetables and fruits.

The research team studied 6,000 obese Americans for a period of 16 years to compare their risk of mortality to that of lean people.  A new weight classification measurement called the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) was used.  This system uses traditional measurement methods such as the body-mass index and waist-to-hip ratios, however, the EOSS also takes into account additional factors such as the extent and severity of other diseases like cancer, mental illness, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

The EOSS classification scheme rates individuals who have an elevated weight but no other health issues and places this group into a section called Stage 0.  Individuals who have the beginning of some risk factors such as hypertension or high blood sugar that has not developed into diabetes are categorised as Stage 1.  In Stage 2 the individuals have obesity-related diseases that can include hypertension.  The individuals in Stage 3 have actual organ damage such as a heart attack, diabetic complications, a stroke and depression.  They may also have shortness of breath while sleeping.

The new research discovered that those individuals in Stage 0 and 1 of the EOSS had similar risk of dying as normal weight individuals.  In some cases, it was found that, these people may even be healthier than those of normal weight.

The new findings, the researchers suggest, challenge the idea that all obese people need to lose weight, however, they warn people to consult with their physician before making any decisions related to their health and weight loss. 

The researchers also say that it is possible that trying and failing to lose weight might be more harmful than just staying at the higher weight level.  Remaining overweight can be acceptable as long as obese and overweight people exercise and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

It is worth noting, however, that the World Health Organisation says that being overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths and that at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. 

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