Obese people who are physically fit and healthy do not have a greater risk of cancer or heart disease than those people of a normal weight, according to researchers.
Being “metabolically fit” is the key, experts said. This means an absence of high blood pressure, cholesterol and raised blood sugar, mixed with exercise.
An analysis of data from more than 43,000 people in the USA found that just being overweight did not pose a risk to health. The results are published in the European Heart Journal.
More than one in three people who took part in the study at the University of South Carolina were obese.
Of these 18,500, 50% were described as metabolically healthy following lab tests and a physical examination.
This group of obese people classed as metabolically healthy who did not suffer with high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure exercised more frequently than the other people classed as obese, and were generally fitter.
Their risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer was the same as those of an ideal weight, and half that of obese people who were “metabolically less fit”.
Senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Amy Thompson, said: “In the majority of cases, obesity is an undeniable risk factor for developing coronary heart disease. However, these studies remind us that it is not always your weight that’s important, but where you carry fat and also how it affects your health and fitness.
“The fat cells here are really active, producing toxic substances that cause damage which can lead to heart disease. Maintaining a healthy diet with lots of physical activity can help to slim you down as well as reduce your risk of heart health problems.”