Just when you thought you knew what obese looked like, an army of skinny-fat people come marching along with little pot bellies hidden under their pear-shaped shirts. No, we’re not on the cusp of a diet-war, but diabetes and heart disease are waging a silent attack on people with normal weight obesity, also known as “skinny-fat.”
While the term normal weight obesity sounds as absurd as fat-free Twinkie, it’s a new and legitimate condition that, according to the Mayo Clinic, may afflict up to 30 million Americans.
In medical terms, normal weight obesity is typified by a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), usually 18.5-24.9, with a large percentage of body fat. In layman’s terms, people with normal weight obesity appear to be thin and healthy, but have large concentrations of central obesity—pooch bellies—and stores of fat around vital organs.
Led by Dr. Karine Sahakyan, The Mayo Clinic conducted a nearly 15-year study of 12,785 subjects, specifically geared toward determining the significance of central obesity. The doctors used a fun, new scientific measurement called “waist-to-hip ratio”—muffin top to where God intended your jeans to sit—as a means to statistically legitimize belly fat. They found that subjects with a normal BMI and a high waist-to-hip ratio—skinny-fat people—”had the highest cardiovascular death risk and the highest death risk…” out of all other demographics studied.
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