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Can Being Fat Actually Be Healthy?

For decades, we have been told that we have to stay slim to be healthy. Research from the American Heart Association and many other organizations have concluded that obesity lowers life expectancy and leads to many health problems. A new study conducted at York University in Toronto may prove otherwise.

The study claims that obese people who did not have other health problems were likely to live longer than other people. The controversial new study has been published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism journal.

At first glance, this study seems hard to follow. However, Jennifer Kuk offers a pretty interesting perspective. She suggests that individuals trying to lose weight are more likely to do so using unhealthy weight loss practices. She says it is more important that individuals eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. Even if they maintain a high body weight, they are still taking in the nutrients they need. Unfortunately, people who try to lose weight may be hurting themselves in the long run. They may go on diets that may deprive them of necessary nutrients. Yuk also suggests that some people may have great genes that allow them to escape medical complications.

Another possibility is the lengths that thinner people go to to maintain lower weights. They may smoke or take other unhealthy appetite suppressants to keep from gaining weight.

The study was made up of a sample of 6,000 American obese men and women. It concluded that a third were either perfectly healthy or had only minor medical problems. After comparing these subjects with thousands of people with normal weights, this study also showed that the obese subjects were less likely to die of heart disease.

The researchers made some surprising findings. First of all, the obese subjects exercised more regularly than their leaner counterparts. They also tended to eat balanced diets with plenty of vegetables and fruits. This was completely unexpected considering the stereotypes society has about obese people neglecting to take care of themselves.

More research needs to be conducted to determine whether the York University study was a fluke. As interesting as the study is, it’s findings are not consistent with those of many other health organizations. However, considering Yuk and her team used such a large sample size over a 16 year period, the findings cannot be ignored.

Could it be that other associations such as the National Heart Association have made blanket assumptions about the health implications of obesity? Are there other factors that need to be taken into consideration? Have decades of research made erroneous conclusions by mistaking correlations between health problems and obesity as a cause and effect relationship?

Jennifer Yuk and her team may cause a stir in the scientific and health communities. Maybe it’s a good thing they are. If people are focusing too heavily on losing weight, they should know if they are actually harming their health in the process.

Editor’s note:  Other related research has found that obesity itself has a more profound adverse impact on disability than life expectancy.  As well, in the on-going debate as to whether or not you can be fit but fat, other research suggests that lean and fit is still better than fit but fat.

Kalen Smith is a professional Internet marketer, consumer researcher and writer. He has been a writer for Weight Loss Triumph and is the cofounder of the blog Great Paleo Diet Cookbooks, where he writes about the paleo diet and lifestyle.

3 Comments

  1. Tom Sleifer

    October 1, 2011 at 9:25 am

    This report came out about a year ago. I did some research into it and found it to be true. I then decided for myself to become fat, I had never been fat but I found the key is to become fit and fat. I decided to go from 190 to 225. From my research to become fat and healthy it is best to gain the weight slowly so I allowed for 6 month – this way I could put on the needed fat slowly so my body could become adjusted to the additional weight, this way once I became fat it would be difficult to lose the weight. After 6 months I gained the weight around 25 pounds of the weight went right into my stomach – I can no longer see my feet, but to my pleasant surprise I feel great being fat, I was amazed. I am different person being fat, I have much more energy and confidence, and I also realzie since I gained the weight very slowly that I will always be fat, and in truth I do not mind. The key is I do work out 6 days a week.

  2. Jupitor Chakma @ Health Blog

    August 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    New concept indeed. Yes heating healthy is more important than loosing weight in a unhealthy way. But, can anyone be obese if he/she eats healthy food with lots of fruits, fiber etc.

    • Kalen Smith

      August 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Hello Jupitor,

      I understand the line of reasoning. However, many obese people do try to eat healthy foods. They may have decided to just maintain their weight by eating differently and aren’t actively losing weight afterwards. I found the studies as surprising as you did, believe me. Maybe with some more research we will have a clearer picture.

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