Written by: Cally Worden
I’ve been saying this for years, but not for any medical or scientific reason. It’s usually as a form of self-justification for the latest bar of Dairy Milk that has worked its way into my mouth. So I was interested to hear of an article in the medical journal PLOS that offers scientific evidence that a lean body doesn’t necessarily equate to good health. What’s it all about?
Don’t Judge a Book …
Of course, you can’t possibly tell how healthy an individual is by simply looking at them, but there is a societal and cultural perception that ‘thin is good’ (notwithstanding the obviously alarming images of skeletal models who are dangerously underweight). This study showed that being within what is considered to be a ‘healthy’ weight range does not make you immune to health problems.
What the Study Found
In a review of 12,600 young male and female subjects, it was shown that even a slight increase in weight caused an increase in cardio metabolic risk – this is the chance you have of developing heart disease or diabetes or having a stroke. The interesting part was that this increased risk applied even in those participants whose weight and BMI were considered to be in the healthy range, even at the end of the study period and after they had gained a little weight. This suggests that, whatever your size, gaining weight is a bad thing. But then, surely we knew that already?
What it Really Means
In essence this new study is basically once again proving the point that eating a balanced, healthy diet and getting regular exercise is vital to your well being, regardless of whether you are under- or overweight. The study proves that even a modest reduction in your weight, even within your ‘safe’ BMI range, can reduce your cardio metabolic risk. And we all know that eating the right amount of the right types of foods and improving our fitness, is the best recipe for controlling our weight.
Like all these studies you can interpret the data in many different ways. This study looks at weight in isolation and it needs to be remembered that individual bodies have differing needs, and some weight gain is natural and healthy – think improved bone mass, pregnancy, and muscle growth. The headline-grabbing ‘Being thin isn’t necessarily healthier’ part is simply a way of drawing attention to the fact that keeping an eye on your weight is sensible, whatever your size or shape. It won’t stop me eating the next bar of chocolate, but might just make me pause for thought if I’m contemplating eating a second one. Maybe!