The Obesity Paradox

I have a riddle for you:

There are 2 heart disease patients…

Who will live longer?

The answer seems obvious, right? The person with their weight under control. Well, hold on…

You see, in some studies, such as the landmark SUNY Downstate Medical Center study of 2013, researchers have found that…

People diagnosed with heart disease lived longer if they were overweight or obese compared with people who were normal weight at the time of their diagnosis.

Doctors and medical researchers call it…

The Obesity Paradox.

How could the very factors that put people at risk for heart disease also be adding years to their lives? It was a real mystery.

Doctors, scientists, and researchers tried to make sense of it. Some thought maybe the AMOUNT of fat a person has wasn’t the problem... but the TYPE of fat they have.

A 2013 study showed normal-weight people with heart problems who also have belly fat have worse survival rates than obese people who carry their weight more in their thighs or rear.3

Now, belly fat, also called visceral or deep fat, is more harmful than fat that sits right under the skin because it’s embedded in your muscles and organs.4

I know what you’re thinking… Aren’t there are plenty of overweight and obese people who carry their weight in their bellies too? And the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

So even though deep fat can lead to serious health issues, it wasn’t the key to the Obesity Paradox.

Which means researchers STILL didn’t have an answer... until the findings were released on a new, MASSIVE study from Northwestern University.

They examined data from 190,672 patients!5

And what they found was pretty amazing.

Now, being overweight or obese increases your risk for a number of health problems… including heart disease.

And when you’re not in great health — like an obese person — you end up going to the doctor more.

Which means these overweight and obese patients were getting diagnosed much earlier…

So... if two men live to the same age, and one (who’s obese) had heart disease for 30 years, and the other (normal weight) had heart disease for 15 years…

If you only compare how long they lived while they had heart disease… it looks like the obese patient lived 15 years longer.

And that’s where the Obesity Paradox came from.

I was thrilled this “paradox” was finally solved. (A lot of people were getting the wrong message.)

It’s a good reminder that some of the most puzzling questions can be answered by good old common sense.

And common sense can help when it comes to heart disease, too.

See your doctor on a regular basis, and listen to their recommendations. And follow the American Heart Association’s tips for prevention:

(Now, before you begin any new diet or exercise program, always check with your regular doctor or healthcare provider. They know you best, so follow their recommendations.)

I know it’s not always easy to exercise and eat right, but it’s worth it. No matter what your age, developing good habits can help you live a longer life… and a healthier one, too...

So you can be more active, stay involved and independent... and enjoy every day of your life to the fullest.

To great days ahead,

Dr. B


P.S. If you’d like more details about the American Heart Association’s recommendations for diet, exercise, and healthy living, you can find them at their website: https://healthyforgood.heart.org/

Sources:
1,2,3,4A. Sifferlin. The Obesity Paradox: Can Body Fat Ever Be Good For You? Time Health. Time Magazine. May 6, 2015.
5,6Northwestern University. (2018, February 28). 'Obesity paradox' debunked: Obese people really don't live longer than normal weight people with heart disease, they're just diagnosed at a younger age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180228131118.htm


Author
Arash Bereliani, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.C. Beverly Hills Institute For Cardiology & Preventive Medicine

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