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Study Refutes ‘Fat But Healthy’ Theory

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Key Takeaways

  • Physical activity does not undo the negative effects of excess body weight on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
  • Within each BMI category, being either regularly or insufficiently active conferred protection vs inactivity against all the studied risk factors (diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension).
  • Irrespective of PA levels, individuals with overweight or obesity were at greater CVD risk than their peers with normal weight.

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 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% female; mean age, 42.3 years).

The researchers found that 42% of participants had a normal weight, 41% were overweight, and 18% were obese, while 63.5% were inactive, 12.3% were insufficiently active, and 24.2% were regularly active. Within each BMI category, being either regularly or insufficiently active conferred protection vs 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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