The latest science tells us that not all fat cells are created equal and their different characteristics mean that some types can feed illness and dysfunction whilst others are harmless and can even prevent disease. Fat around the belly in particular is not good as it releases fatty acids and inflammatory compounds into the body which leads to higher cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure whilst fat in lower body areas such as the thighs as this traps harmful fatty acids that can travel through the bloodstream eventually to the heart.
So BMI is not that accurate and can even be unreliable as it does not take into account what scientists refer to as 'metabolically healthy obesity'. So in other words if you don't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or any of the other indicators, but you are overweight or obese on the BMI scale then you may be fine. Essentially factors such as nutrition and fitness play a much more important part. Recent studies have shown a mediterranean diet for example reduced cardiovascular risk irrespective of weight loss.
Fitness can cancel out the adverse impact of other traditional risk factors including being overweight, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Therefore the fitter you are the less your weight matters. A fit person who is overweight can outlive a thin unfit person. In fact thin people can be fat on the inside, in other words their abdominal organs can be coated in visceral fat which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Some interesting facts from the Obesity Paradox by Dr Carl Lavie
So the real secret lies in making sure you are physically fit. This supports the 'Exercise for Life' chapter in my book 'Unleash the Slim Within' as exercise boosts your health and mood. Avoiding sitting is a starting point so walking is the first step forward literally. Sitting negatively influences things like blood sugar, the appetite hormone leptin that tells you when to stop eating, high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol) and your resting blood pressure. So less sitting and more activity is the order of the day!
Interestingly, the importance of exercise isn't neccessarily to do with weight loss as we know that it takes about 35 miles of walking to burn off 1Ib of fat, whilst food or calorie deprivation can be much quicker. This new research puts exercise at the forefront for very different and probably more important reasons. This is a paradigm shift in terms of how we think about our weight and health!