Why Thin Doesn’t Mean Healthy?

Recently here on Hive Health Media, a BBC documentary was featured which investigated why some people are “naturally thin;” that is to say, how is it that some people can eat however much they want and still not gain weight? The answers, although not completely conclusive, were mostly genetic, but also had much to do with environmental factors, especially during childhood. [ [For post on BBC documentary, click here:  Why are Thin People Not Fat?]

Going beyond the “why thin people are not fat” question, however, let’s take a look at another phenomenon. Those who are physically large or apparently “fat,” in our cultural estimation of the word, are generally thought to be unhealthy and are at greater risk of diabetes and heart disease than those who are, for all intents and purposes, “skinny” or “thin”. More recent research has demonstrated, however, that this is a misconception that can serve to give thin people the false impression that they are healthy.  [See more on this topic here:  Can you be fit but fat?]

Researchers have discovered that while many people do not have an obvious bulge, they may be storing excess internal fat around vital organs like the heart and liver.  According to a Discovery Channel article, Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor of molecular imaging, has for several years charted MRI maps to determine where people store fat. Bell noted that 45 percent of women within the normal BMI range who he’s scanned have excessive internal fat, and as much as 60 percent of the men he’s worked with are “fat” on the inside.

Other studies have noted how those whose weight exceeds the BMI range can still be relatively healthy, if they are active and eat healthy foods. For example, a sumo wrestler, although obviously very weighty, can, in fact, be just as healthy, if not more so, as the thinnest of your friends. For those whose weight and BMI are within the normal range, you might want to take a look at other factors to determine how healthy you actually are. Joanne Ikeda, co- founder of Berkeley University’s Center for Weight and Health, noted in a Berkley blog post:

“Many health professionals are going beyond the scale to determine what kind of advice to offer to patients.  They are relying upon metabolic indicators to determine a person’s health status.  What are these metabolic indicators?  They are familiar to most of us as they include blood pressure; serum cholesterol, HDLs and LDLs; insulin resistance; fasting plasma glucose; and C-reactive protein levels.  These are considered the most accurate indicators of a person’s health status.  Doctors collect this information whenever they give an adult his or her annual medical check-up.”

The final conclusion to draw from all this research is that weight loss has an aesthetic component that can overlook the health component. If you want to look great, weight loss by whatever means may be enough, but if you want to be truly healthy, eating a nutrient-rich diet with regular exercise is key.


This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: [email protected].


I am Kitty Holman, a freelance writer, who writes on the topics of nursing colleges.

One thought on “Why Thin Doesn’t Mean Healthy?

  • February 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I have heard that BMI can be quite misleading for some people. There are people who run marathons etc but are bulky by nature and their BMI labels them as obese!


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