Reconsidering the Effect of Weight on Health
According to a new study on the relationship between body weight and health, the belief that it is possible to be metabolically healthy despite being categorized as obese is incorrect. Research conducted at the University of Birmingham explored whether extra body mass increased an individual’s risk of various health issues, relative to someone with a normal body mass. Previous investigation in this area had suggested that using Body Mass Index (BMI), which interprets weight relative to height, was an inaccurate method for assessing one’s health risks. The justification behind this stems from the fact that “BMI is purely a measure of weight and doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat”, making it possible for certain body types, and especially those heavy in muscle, to be controversially labeled as obese . Thus it would seem that one could be considered obese despite exhibiting equally healthy “metabolic factors such as blood pressure and blood sugar” as someone deemed to be within the recommended weight range . The researchers in the new study examined whether, in this case, an individual’s ‘extra weight’ increased their risk of health problems.
Following a review of medical data drawn from approximately three million people over the span of twenty years, researchers concluded that “people who were obese but metabolically healthy were at higher risk of developing heart disease, strokes and heart failure than people of normal weight” . Significantly, the research is not yet published, so it is yet to undergo serious scrutiny from respected members of the health sciences. Possible areas for debate include the study’s use of absolute values to determine one’s health status, in addition to previous studies asserting that when it comes to body fat, location is more important than quantity.
If the work is found to be valid, however, it will carry serious consequences for people all around the world. It will likely reignite fitness initiatives focused on health reduction as their primary goal, and could contribute to a reduced emphasis on social, mental, and spiritual health. Of all the study’s implications, its impact on body positivity efforts and personal confidence is undoubtedly one of the most important.
In recent years, a combination of social media activism and emerging health research has led to the encouragement of acceptance and understanding towards a wide range of body types and sizes. This movement has a strong foundation in the belief that bodyweight itself, as opposed to the metabolic factors it can negatively influence, has no effect on one’s health risks. With the release of this study from the University of Birmingham, body positivity progress in the 21st century is under serious threat. If the research argues that with increased body mass comes increased risk of health problems, the ethics of preaching tolerance towards larger body types may come into question. In essence, some people may view supporting the image of an overweight individual to be one and the same as supporting unhealthy behavior.
It is crucial that this study is subjected to the criticism of peers and experts before the newest debate concerning the relationship between body weight and health kicks off. Regardless of the validity of the research, however, it is always worth remembering that an individual’s health extends far deeper than just their physical qualities. Mental and social well-being are equally important, and targeting obese individuals will almost certainly be detrimental to their overall health, regardless of one’s intentions to improve physical fitness.
“Think You Can Be Both Fat and Fit? It's 'Age-Old Myth' Say Researchers.” Sputnik International. May 18, 2017. Accessed May 19, 2017. https://sputniknews.com/europe/201705181053735556-fitness-health-fat-myth/
Mundasad, Smitha. “Fat but fit is a big fat myth.” BBC News. May 17, 2017. Accessed May 19, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39936138