Notion of ‘Healthy Obesity’ Largely a Myth, New Study Says

The notion of “healthy obesity” has been gaining acceptance in some circles, as studies seem to be showing that for some people, obesity is not necessarily a negative health indicator. Just a few days ago, a study showed that for some obese people, reported the Inquisitr, even gaining more weight did not impact their health measurably. A new, longer-term study, however, seems to have debunked the notion of healthy obesity.

The study, conducted at the University College London, looked at 20 years of health survey data. Two groups were formed. One had about 2,500 people, 66 of whom were marked as “healthy obese” in metabolic profiles (cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting glucose, etc). The other group was much larger and contained 389 people with “healthy obesity.”

The study found that, over time, Forbes reports, those with “healthy obesity” usually degenerated into unhealthy obesity. After a decade, 35 percent of those with healthy obesity had become unhealthy. That rose to 38 percent after fifteen years, and 48 percent after 20. Another ten percent of participants lost weight and became healthy non-obese. Forbes mentions that other studies have found the same.

“This is not the first study to suggest that healthy obesity is somewhat of a myth, at least for most people.”

Reporting on the same study, New Vision quoted the study’s lead author, Joshua Bell.

“A core assumption of healthy obesity has been that it is stable over time, but we can now see that healthy obese adults tend to become unhealthy obese in the long term, with about half making this transition over 20 years in our study.”

The study counters what some researchers call “the obesity paradox,” the notion that healthy obesity can improve survival rates for some patients, says CBS News. This theory has been noted in several research studies involving overweight people who do not have the usual obesity-related issues — the “healthy obesity” group. Some of these people, studies suggest, might have lower heart disease death rates than those with a lower body mass index, despite overall risk being higher.

That theory seems to be more heavily questioned with the new study from the University College London. CBS News iterates that among the non-obese in the 20-year study, 22 percent became unhealthy but remained trim while a further ten percent had become unhealthy or had healthy obesity.

The study’s authors note that their findings indicate that even those with “healthy obesity” should try to lose weight to avoid long-term risk factors.