Obese and Healthy? Not Likely

Several researchers and a new study have confirmed that obesity and health are not compatible.

Heart disease often plagues an obese person even if that person shows normal levels of blood sugar, normal levels of cholesterol, and normal blood pressure. This is according to an April 30 report posted by Korean researchers in the online version of Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

A total of 14,000 subjects with ages ranging from 30 – 59, participated in the study. The researchers discovered that the participants who were obese showed more plaque buildup in their arteries, making them dangerously at risk for stroke and heart disease compared to the subjects with normal weight.

Dr. Rishi Puri, author of an accompanying journal editorial and medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s atherosclerosis imaging core laboratory says “People have been trying to work out regardless of whether they’re healthy or obese”. “Even if the blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure are normal in an obese person, those findings over time are liable to change and become abnormal, which can put the patient at risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

In terms of patient care and research, Dr. Puri also questioned the purpose of trying to define healthy obesity. He says “In dealing with obesity-associated disorders, we are faced with a huge challenge at an individual and public health level.” He added “The heart isn’t the only one affected by obesity, the person will also likely suffer from psychiatric disorders, joint disease, and cancers”. He believes that obesity and its effects, over the next two decades, will lead to a rise in health care costs, as well.

Puri asks “What are the several other things obesity can do to your body, even if we happen to find that certain obese patients in the short term don’t have a higher risk of heart disease?” “Are we going to ignore that?” he added.

The above mentioned study was conducted in Seoul, Korea and was led by a Kangbuk Samsung Hospital Total Healthcare Center, Center for Cohort Studies professor, Dr. Yoosoo Chang. He and his team scanned the hearts of 14,828 people whose risk factors for heart disease were low.

Dr. Chang and his team searched for an early sign of heart disease which is an accumulation of calcium plaque in the arteries of the heart. Calcium plaque is responsible for the hardening and stiffening of the arteries, which is a condition known as atherosclerosis.

The researchers discovered that the people who were obese manifested a higher occurrence of atherosclerosis of the arteries of the heart compared to the subjects with normal weight. The researchers stated that heart conditions such as sudden cardiac death and heart attack will likely develop if atherosclerosis is not managed.

Chang stated “People who are obese who are deemed to be ‘healthy’ by the fact that they currently don’t have heart disease risk factors should not be assumed healthy by their physicians”. He added, “The study him and his team is conducting reveals that obesity is a sufficient factor to exacerbate the risk of future heart disease in a person and that the disease may actually be already forming  in the person’s body. Therefore, it is crucial that people who are obese know this while they still have time to modify their lifestyle and diet in order to prevent a cardiovascular event in the future”.

Yale University Prevention Research Center director David Katz, M.D., said these results do not surprise him and he expects finding the same results among all obese Americans.

He said “The relative importance to fatness versus health of fitness has been debated for a long time. The argument has been made that fatness may not be a significant health concern if one is fit.”

While fat and unfit is obviously much less desirable than fat and fit, this study adds to a growing number of studies that questions that assertion. Katz says “Inflammation becomes inevitable when a person has excess body fat and inflammation is one of the key contributing factors to all various chronic diseases and heart disease”.

Katz noted that “Fortunately, with regards to fatness and fitness, the same approaches that enable people to stay fit are the ones that help them lose weight and by being active and eating a healthy diet one could shed off those excess weight and remain healthy as well”.