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New research out of the UK lifts the veil on the idea of healthy obesity in order to determine whether healthy obese adults stay healthy in the long term.
A small but long-term study, that tracked the health of more than 2,500 men and women for 20 years, found that most healthy obesity progresses to unhealthy obesity in the majority of adults.
The study, entitled 'The Natural Course of Healthy Obesity Over 20 Years' published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that more than 51% of the healthy obese participants became unhealthy obese over the 20-year study period, while only 11% lost weight and became healthy non-obese.
Researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London studied more than 2,500 government employees between the ages of 39 and 62, measuring their body mass index, as well as a range of other significant health conditions, including cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose and insulin resistance.
'Obese' was defined as having a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or more, while "healthy" obesity was defined as obesity with no metabolic risk factors.
The study's lead author, Joshua Bell, said "healthy obesity is only a state of relative health, it's just less unhealthy than the worst-case scenario. And as we now see, healthy obese adults tend to become unhealthy obese over time. Healthy obesity is only valid if it is stable over time, and our results indicate that it is often just a phase. All types of obesity warrant treatment, even those which appear to be healthy.”