Your obesity may not cause you any problems when you’re young and vigorous, but in the long run it will get you.
The Obesity Paradox
It’s true, some overweight people carry extra pounds and don’t display any of the ailments associated with them: high blood pressure, bad cholesterol or blood sugar levels that go through the roof.
In some the extra weight even lowers the risk of heart failure.
It’s called the “obesity paradox” and organisations like the Fat Acceptance Movement wave it in front of their ranks as a major defense against the accusation that obesity is a major health risk.
They only forget to mention that being obese and healthy at age 20 doesn’t guarantee that’ll still be you at age 40.
In The Long Run Obesity Takes Its Toll
Researchers from London’s University College tracked the health of 2,521 people between the ages of 39 and 62 over the course of two decades.
At the beginning they recorded each person’s body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance and fasting blood sugar, and ranked them in one of four groups: healthy or unhealthy and obese or non-obese.
Twenty years later the results look like this:
- At the beginning of the study, about 1/3 of obese participants were healthy obese
- After five years, 32% of them had become unhealthy obese
- After ten years it was 41%
- After twenty years it was more than 50% and only ~15% of obese persons were still healthy
- But 70% of the people who started as healthy non-obese remained healthy
“Healthy Obese” Is A Phase
So yes, some people have bodies more resilient to the woes of obesity, but in the long run it will get them too. Joshua Bell, the study’s lead researcher, put it in more diplomatic fashion:
Healthy obesity is something that’s a phase rather than something that’s enduring over time. It’s important to have a long-term view of healthy obesity, and to bear in mind the long-term tendencies. As long as obesity persists, health tends to decline. It does seem to be a high-risk state.
All this is very much in line with previous research. See, for example, this study on overweight people who were healthy on paper but whose brains already showed the side effects of obesity.
If you’re obese and want to stay that way, fine. It’s what personal freedom is all about. But, please, grow up, learn to accept the consequences of your choices and don’t defend them with untenable arguments.
Picture courtesy of “Cliff“.