When it comes to health it seems the data is always changing; do this and don’t do that if you want to live a long, disease-free life.For decades it has seemed pretty cut-and-dry that being overweight has a number of negative health consequences, but new research is suggesting extra pounds may actually help prevent some of the conditions obesity is often blamed for.
The obesity paradox
First and foremost, there are innumerable studies indicating why it is bad to be overweight. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 70 percent of adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese, and the majority of chronic diseases in the country ca be attributed to that excess weight in one way or another.
But is it possible that being overweight can be beneficial in some cases?
Experts are saying ‘yes,’ indicating there may be something currently coined “the obesity paradox.”
Recently, two studies published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest being overweight may benefit people in regards to cardiovascular issues.
The first study, from experts at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, found individuals who were overweight were less likely to suffer a heart attack post surgery for coronary artery disease. In fact, patients who were obese had the lowest rate of all-cause mortality in a 1.7-year follow-up period compared people who were considered of a healthy weight.
Why the discrepancy?
The study’s lead author, Dr. Abhishek Sharma indicates individuals who are obese are likely to already be on medications designed to protect cardiovascular health, but there may also be anatomical differences that give obese patients an advantage.
“Further,” he adds as reported by MNT, “obese and overweight patients have been found to have large coronary vessel damage, which might contribute to more favorable outcomes. This population may have a higher metabolic reserve, which might act protectively in chronic conditions like CAD. Also, there could be a difference in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease in over- and underweight patients. A non-modifiable genetic predisposition may also play a role in underweight patients.”
The second study supporting the obesity paradox comes from Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Preventative Cardiology at the John Ochsner Heart & Vascular Institute at the University of Queensland School of Medicine in New Orleans.
Lavie and his team studied the comparison of obesity and body composition, specifically looking at lean body mass versus body fat.
What they found was that a higher body mass index was associated with a lower mortality rate–a 29 percent lower risk. It was only when the ratio of body fat to lean body was was taken into account that mortality numbers started to change. This suggests that being overweight alone isn’t enough to indicate a person’s health; the percentage of fat is what is a more accurate prediction.
“Whenever examining a potential protective effect of body fat, lean mass index – which likely represents larger skeletal muscle mass – should be considered. At higher BMI, body fat is associated with an increase in mortality,” said Lavie, who added, “Nonetheless, given the preponderance and consistency of epidemiologic data, there should be little doubt that in certain populations higher BMI, which is associated with higher risk of metabolic syndrome and poor cardiovascular outcomes in the long-term, confers short-term survival and cardiovascular advantages.”
Does this mean individuals who are overweight should stop worrying?
The experts say that is far from what the studies are suggesting. While there may be some small benefits to being overweight in specific circumstances, ad not all people who are overweight are of equal mortality risk, long-term chronic disease issues are still a very real, proven concern.