In recent days, researchers from Europe have published their findings from years of study of 500,000 individuals battling excess weight but trying to stay fit. The research project is the culmination of an effort to understand if maintaining physical activity and an active lifestyle can overcome the negative health effects of obesity. In short, can you be both fit and fat?
From the Research
That appears to be a resounding “no,” at least in the sense that obesity still causes large adverse health effects, even among people who exercise and maintain otherwise “fit” lifestyles.
The European study was quite large, looking at half a million individuals, but it should also be noted that this is a cross-section study. This means that while it is valuable information, it is not quite the same as a study in which doctors provide a specific treatment for patients and then follow the outcomes over the years. It is more like a snapshot of a large cross section of individuals.
The results however tell a clear story, and it is not the one that most people want to hear. The data indicates that excess body weight remains a very significant risk particularly for markers like elevated blood sugar, type two diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. These are the primary links to heart disease and stroke. “Fitness,” or maintaining good physical activity and exercise, does not eliminate that increased risk from obesity. In other words, there is not such a thing as “fit and fat” based on this data.
Focusing on the Real Issue
While it is always beneficial to health and a good idea to remain physically active, we should be putting a good deal more emphasis on reducing excess body weight. Obesity may in fact be the strongest risk factor of poor health, dwarfing the impact of physical activity.
There are several well-proven positives of regular exercise, including improved mental health, heart health and pulmonary health. But it does not overcome the negatives of obesity, at least not entirely. Unfortunately, research also shows that lowering the body weight number is a lot harder than we would like, and even harder than embracing daily exercise.
There are two important takeaways from a large study such as this one. First off, public health authorities need to sharpen their focus on finding the root causes of obesity, and second, they must find better ways to help individuals and populations reduce body weight. Unfortunately, the peer-reviewed medical literature today shows truly minimal effectiveness of even the best medically supervised multi-disciplinary programs aimed at long-term weight loss. So, we in the medical community need to do better. And there needs to be better research understanding the root causes, including the specific elements within the food supply and environment that are causing widespread obesity.
In the meantime, we’ll continue with the metabolic procedures that we know are making a difference. If you’re considering metabolic surgery for weight loss and other benefits, contact us today to learn more.