Is “Fat But Fit” a Myth?
You've likely heard the phrase “fat but fit” – the belief that it is possible to be healthy while still carrying extra weight.
As obesity continues its rise in the United States, more and more people have begun to subscribe to the fat but fit belief. There are detractors, of course – actor Tom Hanks credits his type 2 diabetes to his unhealthy diet, a staple among what he calls the “lazy American generation.”
But scientifically speaking, can you be “fat but fit”? According to a new study, the answer is: “Not likely.”
A Sydney Study
The latest research on weight, fitness, and the connection to type 2 diabetes comes from Australia – a nation that comes in at number 26 in the most obese countries on earth, with 29 percent of the country suffering from obesity.
Thanh-Binh Nguyen from the University of Sydney led the study, in which Nguyen's team “investigated levels of physical activity and sitting time in 29,572 men and women enrolled in the 45 and Up Study.” Of their nearly 30,000 subjects, 611 developed type 2 diabetes during the three-year study period.
Findings on Fat and Fitness
The research found that obese participants in the study were five times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. This increased risk persisted for obese people regardless of activity level – in fact, obese people who were physically active and spent little time sitting were still at a greater risk than sedentary people of an average weight, poking more than a few holes in the “fat but fit” theory.
"Once you are overweight being physically active doesn't help you that much in terms of preventing type 2 diabetes... It helps you if you can manage to reduce your weight, so it's important to continue to be physically active and to adopt a healthy diet," Mr. Nguyen said of his findings.
Professor Emily Banks, scientific director of the 45 and Up Study, concurrs. “The data tells us that being overweight or obese remains the major factor in developing type 2 diabetes,” she said. “[W]hile being active is important, it's not a 'get out of jail free' card for people carrying excess weight.”