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Study Refutes ‘Fat but Healthy’ Theory

Active lifestyle does not negate the deleterious effects of overweight and obesity

TUESDAY, Feb. 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Physical activity (PA) does not undo the negative effects of excess body weight on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, according to a research letter published online Jan. 22 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Pedro L. Valenzuela, Ph.D., from the University of Alcala in Madrid, and colleagues assessed the joint association between different body mass index (BMI) categories and PA levels and the prevalence of major CVD risk factors. The analysis included 527,662 commercially insured participants (32 percent female; mean age, 42.3 years).

The researchers found that 42 percent of participants had a normal weight, 41 percent were overweight, and 18 percent were obese, while 63.5 percent were inactive, 12.3 percent were insufficiently active, and 24.2 percent were regularly active. Within each BMI category, being either regularly or insufficiently active conferred protection versus inactivity against all the studied risk factors (diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension). This relationship was evident in a PA dose-response manner for diabetes and hypertension. Regular or insufficient PA did not compensate for the negative effects of overweight or obesity. Irrespective of PA levels, individuals with overweight or obesity were at greater CVD risk than their peers with normal weight. Results were similar when analyzing men and women separately.

“Our findings refute the notion that a physically active lifestyle can completely negate the deleterious effects of overweight and obesity,” a coauthor said in a statement.

Abstract/Full Text

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