There's more to obesity than meets the eye. A common assumption is that normal weight people are off the hook when it comes to obesity-related risks. Are normal weight individuals immune to obesity-related health risks? Should we be content with having a "normal" BMI or weight?
It turns out the definition of obesity is getting a makeover. Even those with normal body weights can fall prey to normal weight obesity (NWO).
That term may sound like an oxymoron, but it's backed up by a growing body of convincing evidence. NWO is having a normal BMI with a large percentage of body fat (more than 30% for women and 20% for men). Research presented by Mayo Clinic at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session estimate that up to 30 million Americans may have NWO.
The current definition of obesity is a BMI of 30 or greater. Take a second look at that definition and you'll find there's room for improvement. BMI doesn't always tell the whole story. For example, one well-known limitation of BMI is the case of the athlete. A muscular athlete may be misclassified as "obese" even if he isn't. His BMI may be deceptively high because the calculation doesn't take into account all the healthy, lean muscle mass that increases his weight.
On the flipside, people with low lean mass but high body fat may still be classified as having a "normal" BMI. Are they off the hook, though?
NWO: The fat on in the inside
The risks of NWO are similar to obesity. Research shows that despite having a normal BMI, the high body fat of those who fall under this category can lead to the following risks and conditions:
- lighter bones
- blunted insulin sensitivity, high blood sugar without diabetes, or type 2 diabetes
- abnormal blood lipid profiles, such as high triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol
- hypertension-premature coronary heart disease
- high leptin levels, a hormone found in fat
- high C-reactive protein levels (a marker of inflammation)
What's worse, NWO isn't as easily detected as traditional "obesity". No simple calculation can determine body composition. Body fat percentage can be assessed by methods such as skinfold thickness, bioimpedance scales, or DEXA scans.
The Good News
NWO can be reversible but it should shift our focus from solely body weight to body fat/ composition. In NWO, the goal is not to simply lose weight but to change body fat. Simply losing weight can cause one to lose muscle, not necessarily fat. A healthy diet combined with an effective exercise routine (that includes aerobic, strength, and resistance training) can change body fat, increasing the amount of metabolically healthy lean muscle tissue. It can also improve metabolism, bone density, and insulin sensitivity. Trained athletes are known to have higher insulin sensitivity than untrained people. In fact, even a single bout of exercise can improve whole body insulin sensitivity for up to 2 days. For maximum results, consume a high quality, easily absorbable protein after training. Aging, however, causes our bodies to become less efficient at absorbing protein. The EnergyFirst ProEnergy whey protein isolate contains the highest quality, most easily absorbed protein in existence for fat loss and lasting energy. It helps build lean muscle, burn excess body fat, and build bone mass.
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