Obesity is often used as a catch-all to signify poor health in our society, and even though a number of studies have demonstrated that there's a lot more to your health than your weight, it's generally correct that being obese raises health flags.
A new study conducted by South Korean researchers, however, seems to show that there might be one strange benefit to being obese: You're more likely to survive longer with heart disease, reports MedicalXpress.
The study, which looked at more than 3,500 heart failure patients, found that obese patients with heart disease tend to survive significantly longer than their normal-weight counterparts. It's the latest finding to support the so-called "obesity paradox," which relates to the weird observation that heart disease seems to be far deadlier for individuals of normal-to-lower body weights than for overweight individuals, even though obesity is far more correlated with getting heart disease in the first place.
"It has consistently been observed in large studies," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, co-chief of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But the mechanisms contributing to this paradox continue to be debated."
Metabolic health factors matter
Of the patients observed in the study, most of them (around 2,000) were overweight or obese. Overall, these patients showed less deterioration in the structure and function of the heart's main pumping chamber. There was a catch, however. The survivability of obese patients in the study was propped up by a narrow subgroup of obese individuals who still retained good metabolic health, meaning that they didn't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or abnormal blood sugar levels.
Obese individuals with good metabolic health had the highest levels of survivability among all patients in the study; 79 percent were still alive three years later. That compared with just 64 percent of normal-weight patients in good metabolic health.
That said, it's not easy to be obese and in good metabolic health; this was the smallest subgroup in the study. It's important to remember that obesity is still highly correlated with developing heart disease to begin with.
So it's still not advised to pack on the pounds, even once you're stricken with heart disease. But there's definitely something going on here that researchers still don't fully understand.
"Fitness is more important than fatness," said Dr. Gurusher Panjrath of the American College of Cardiology's heart failure and transplant section, who was not involved with the study. He added, though, that weight loss is always encouraged when patients are severely obese.