Can You Really Be Fit and Fat? Study Says No.

Really?

This article is a good example of how research is reported in a way that skews the results. Conclusions could easily have read, "exercise significantly reduces risk factors for heart disease." Instead they reinforce fat is bad beliefs by encouraging weight loss (even though it is unlikely to work, and can increase health risks).

Let's take a closer look..

In analyzing the study, Dr. Glenn Gaesser states that, “By emphasizing relative risks, this study makes the risk of developing heart disease among overweight/obese women seem pretty scary ...anywhere from 54% higher to 2.5 times (250%!!) higher. 

By contrast, when viewed from the perspective of the risk of NOT DEVELOPING heart disease, the results are not as impressive:  During the ~11 years of follow up, 98.3% of "normal" BMI women did not develop heart disease, 97.1% of "overweight" women did not develop heart disease, and 96.4% of "obese" women did not develop heart disease. 

Not exactly headline-grabbing.

I should also mention that the hazard ratios were significantly attenuated when the researchers controlled for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes (all higher in the high-BMI categories).

This suggests that only a subset of the high-BMI women was at increased risk (and the “healthy overweight/obese” may have little to worry about).    

Additionally, when the analyses were restricted to only actual heart attacks (nonfatal and fatal), the differences between active women in the different BMI groups were not significant.

The actual article emphasized the importance of physical activity more than the MSNBC.com article."

Nice that the researchers acknowledged the importance of physical activity. Too bad the article did not.

*** Dr. Glenn Gaesser directs the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center in the Exercise and Wellness program at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus in southeast Mesa. The center, established this year, focuses on clinical and applied research on the roles of physical activity and diet in health promotion and disease prevention. Comments above were posted on a listserv that regularly analyzes 'obesity' research. Used with permission.