Metabolic Health Versus Weight

by Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP on Dec 13, 2017

Question of the Month

Despite more than a decade of intensive efforts to reverse the adult and childhood obesity crises, obesity remains widespread. Generally, the first treatment recommendation is to lose weight, but losing large amounts of weight and keeping it off is difficult, and possibly not even the best reflection of health improvements. After all, the number on a scale is just one measure of health. Perhaps, as researchers in a 2017 Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology paper suggest, we should spend more efforts looking at other markers that may help promote metabolically healthy obesity, such as attaining or maintaining normal cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. Improvements in these measures result from healthful eating patterns, increased physical activity and/or moderate weight loss (about 5%–10%).

While people with metabolically healthy obesity face a greater risk of cardiovascular events than their counterparts at normal weights, their risk is substantially lower than that of people with metabolically unhealthy obesity.

Health and fitness professionals could collaborate with clients and their healthcare providers to monitor improvements in markers of metabolic health with adoption of a healthier lifestyle.

What do you think? As clients make their New Year’s resolutions, should metabolic health—and not weight—be a key target?

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About the Author

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP IDEA Author/Presenter

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD is a board-certified pediatrician, registered dietitian, and ACE Health Coach. She is committed to providing evidence-based nutrition and fitness information to health professionals and consumers alike in a way that is logical, practical and directly applicable to readers’ lives. She has authored over 100 publications and book chapters, all which are based on the latest scientific evidence and presented in a manner that is easy-to-understand and apply. She is Director of Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) having written the nutrition chapters for each of ACE’s textbooks, the ACE Fitness Nutrition Manual and Specialty Certification, and recorded several Webinars and online courses. Furthermore, as a spokesperson for ACE, the largest fitness certifying and advocacy organization in the country, she informs broadcast and print media outlets throughout the U.S. on pertinent nutrition and fitness issues. She is author '"Eat Your Vegetables!" and other mistakes parents make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters'. She presented a similar topic at IDEA World 2009; the video is available for purchase through IDEA. Certifications: ACE, ACSM and NSCA