Metabolically  Healthy Obesity

It’s a popular opinion that people who look fat, or whose body mass index is above the standard value is obesity. While this is true, it doesn’t always mean they are not healthy. Obesity is associated with a lot of health risks, such as atherosclerosis, coronary artery diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and so on. However, there are some people, despite being overweight, still, manage to be healthy. This group of people is called the metabolically healthy obese people.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a condition in which an individual gains a lot of body fat, to the point that it adversely affects their health. Obesity is generally measured using the body mass index. The body mass index can be calculated by dividing the weight of the person by the square of their height.

A value above 30kg/m2 is regarded as obesity, while a value between the range of 25-30kg/m2 is regarded as overweight.

Normal weight is value between the range 18.5 to 25.0

A person who has a value below 18.5 is regarded as underweight

Causes of Obesity

There are many factors that play a role in the development of obesity. Some of these factors include

  1. Food: This happens when people eat a lot of food consistently, without engaging in physical activities. There has to be a balance between the amount of food consumed, and the number of calories burnt. When the amount of food taken exceeds the quantity used, then the body is edging towards been overweight. The United States has been battling with this condition because the majority of Americans are obese. This can be attributed to the heavy presence of fast food spots such as McDonald’s, Popeye’s etc.
  2. Lifestyle: The kind of lifestyle a person largely determines if one would become obese or not. Individuals who sit around in the house all day, playing video games, essentially people who live sedentary lifestyles are prone to being obese. The less physical activity one gets involved in, the more one is prone to being overweight, and consequently obese.
  3. Genetics: Heredity plays a very important role in the development of obesity. Children of obese parents often turn out obese. This is not to give an excuse for people in this kind of conditions, as genetics is not the sole determinant of one’s weight. Obese people can live a healthy and fit life if they decide to. This can be done by burning more than they consume.
  4. Consumption of unhealthy food: Eating unhealthy foods such as food products from eateries like KFC and McDonalds. This kind of food is carefully produced to stimulate the reward centers in the brain. This makes people want to consume more, because of the way it makes them feel.
  5. Drugs: There are some drugs that do stimulate weight gain in people. Examples of these drugs include some anti-diabetic drugs, antidepressant drugs etc. Weight gain is a side effect of these drugs. Patients would have to closely monitor their weight, so they don’t become obese.
  6. Diseases: There are some specific diseases that induce weight gain, within a short time in patients. Examples of this kind of diseases are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Cushing syndrome etc.
  7. Body hormones: Leptin, is an important hormone in the development of obesity. Leptin is produced by adipose cells, and it’s supposed to work as a negative feedback messenger, to inform the brain, that the body is full. Leptin is the satiety hormone. However, obese and overweight people have a lot of fat cells, as well as large quantities of leptin. The brain becomes resistant to leptin, so the body does not have a good functioning satiety mechanism. This has been believed to be a huge component of the development of obesity.

Effects on Health

Obesity is the condition in which people or an individual gains a lot of weight, mostly fat, that has adverse effects on their health. Below are some of the side effects of obesity

  1. Cardiovascular diseases: People gain a lot of fat, as a result of their lifestyle, or due to some genetic diseases. Fats tend to build up in the form of plaques in the coronary arteries. These plaques gradually build up in their arteries and reduce the blood flow. This causes a condition such as angina and so on.
  2. Diabetes mellitus: Obese people are prone to having the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes mellitus is a component of the metabolic syndrome. This disease is when the cells cannot absorb glucose. The patient would have hyperglycemia. Diabetes mellitus has acute and chronic complications. There are two types of diabetes mellitus. These are the type 1 Diabetes mellitus and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  3. Obstructive sleep apnea: This occurs because of the fat deposit, that blocks the airway. This if not controlled will lead to fatigue, especially when the patient wakes up from sleep
  4. In addition, obesity can lead other conditions such as bone diseases, asthma, and tumor growth.

What You Need to Know About Metabolically Healthy Obesity

Metabolically healthy obesity has been shown to be a phenotype of obesity. However, arguments are still on-going on the right definition of MHO. The age and the location of the fat have been noted to play an important role.  As an illustration, people who have more deposits of fat in their abdomen, have more chances of developing the metabolic syndrome such as diabetes and hypertension. This is just to affirm the importance of fat distribution on the health. According to a researcher, it’s better to have more fat deposits in the limbs, breast, and thighs. This kind of fat distribution has been considered healthy.

Implications of Metabolically Healthy Obesity

Even though metabolically healthy obesity might actually exist, it does not remove the risks of having metabolic syndrome, and other obesity-associated diseases. Metabolically healthy obesity is not a common phenomenon, and it is not permanent either.  Although genetics and our environment might be a bit out of our control, there are so many things one can do to live a healthy life.


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Obesity as a Disease: The Obesity Society Council Resolution. (2008). Obesity, 16(6), pp.1151-1151.