Being Overweight Doesn't Mean You're Unhealthy!

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

The results of a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine should not come as a shock to most people. Being overweight doesn't necessarily make you unhealthy, according to researchers in both the United States and Germany. Sports fans have known this forever; elite athletes can have an appearance ranging from tiny Olympic gymnasts to massive NFL linemen. Athletes at both extremes- and all those in between- are in shape and trained to perform at high levels.

The new research confirmed this. People who are overweight have a fifty-fifty chance of having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or elevated blood sugar levels. Pretty good odds, but not as good as those for people who are within the normal weight range. They have a 75% chance of having normal results on blood tests for cholesterol and blood sugar. And for those who are obese, the chance of having normal results falls to one-third.

The definition of "ideal body weight" has been a thorn in the side of many people. Perceptions of how people appear, how their clothes fit, and how fat they are have permitted whole industries to flourish. Weight loss clinics, gyms and fitness centers, liposuction, and gastric bypass surgeries all were based at least partly on the presumption that being overweight equaled being at risk for heart disease and diabetes. The studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that there may be more to health than meets the eye.