In recent years, some experts have speculated that overweight people who otherwise exhibit signs of good health don't need to lose weight:
As one researcher told a reporter in 2004, “If a fat person or obese person has normal blood pressure, if their total cholesterol and glucose levels are normal and they are healthy, there is no reason they should necessarily have to lose weight.”But according to a recent study cited in this NYT Well blog post, regardless of one's fitness level, excess fat is unhealthy. Swedish researchers who examined 30 years of medical records belonging to more than 1,700 middle-aged men have concluded that "being overweight, even if you have sterling blood-cholesterol levels or a firm commitment to exercise, does increase your risk of heart disease." Specifically, they found that:
[B]eing overweight with no evidence of metabolic syndrome left you at significantly higher risk for heart disease than if, with the same metabolic readings, you were not overweight. Men who were overweight (not obese) with healthy blood pressures, cholesterol readings, blood glucose levels and so on, still had a 52 percent higher risk of developing heart disease within 30 years than men who were normal weight and had similar metabolic profiles. That risk rose to 95 percent among obese men who didn’t suffer from metabolic syndrome.
The researchers did not report on the activity levels or exercise practices of any of the men, but typically more-active people have healthier metabolic profiles and vice versa. The findings did make it clear that although being fat and having healthy blood work puts you at less risk of cardiac disease than someone who is thin and has lousy metabolic parameters, the extra pounds still leave you with at least a 50 percent greater risk of developing heart disease.The lesson: Even if you're fat but fit, you still need to try to lose the extra pounds.
(I really wish I hadn't come across this article just now, while downing a burrito.)