In the medical community, there has traditionally been a clear line between having a healthy and obese bodyweight. It’s very easy to make a quick assumption based on someone’s looks, and classify them as either healthy or unhealthy, but this is not always the case.
The data shows that neither assumption is necessarily true – obese does not always mean unhealthy, and “skinny” or normal does not necessarily mean healthy. There are overweight and obese people with good health markers across the board, and there are also those with normal, or healthy bodyweight, who present health symptoms traditionally associated with an obese person. This is known as skinny-fat – they appear healthy, and have a healthy bodyweight by traditional measures, but the ratio of fat to lean mass is off, and they carry too much body fat.
When simply looking at BMI, or body mass index, all that’s taken into account is height and weight, not actual body composition. This means that someone could have a healthy BMI, but an unhealthy body fat percentage, which can cause health problems. These people may also tend to carry this fat in more damaging areas, such as subcutaneously. The liver is an especially problematic area, as research has shown increasing liver damage in those with a normal BMI, even non-alcoholics.
Genetics vary person to person, and some people are just genetically inclined against fat storage. Think of your friend who can eat anything they want without gaining fat, that is the person we are talking about. These people can have awful diets, and not realize the negative impact, as they don’t appear to be overweight. It’s important to realize that simply being a healthy weight range does not mean that person is necessarily healthy.
When tested in a lab, these skinny-fat people may have very unhealthy health markers, even if they appear fine on the outside. These lab tests can reveal some classic indicators of metabolic syndrome, which is typically associated with obesity, even though the high levels of fat are not there. Cholesterol, blood sugar, and other blood health markers can be very poor in skinny-fat people, if they don’t eat properly and exercise.
Research also shows that other health issues may be related to poor dietary habits in those with healthy weight range, including poor vision, increased acne, and even baldness. Studies have even shown that those normal weight people with metabolic syndrome are at a much greater risk of heart disease, than obese people without metabolic syndrome.
It’s also very important to consider the role of insulin in all of this. Insulin resistance from poor dietary choices in skinny-fat people can lead to a whole host of problems, as insulin resistance can shift the balance of testosterone and estrogen in a negative way. Seeing symptoms such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, prostate hyperplasia, and gynecomastia are not uncommon in these skinny-fat people, as they are hormonal issues that can be driven by reduced insulin sensitivity.
In summary, it’s important to pay attention to how you eat, and your food choices. Simply being a normal weight does not mean you are healthy, and if you are obese, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have metabolic syndrome or hormonal issues. The safest plan is to simply reduce intake of processed foods and grains, and try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, regardless of where you fall on the BMI scale.