12 December 2006

Not All Thin People Are Healthy

Thin people are fitter and healthier than obviously overweight or obese counterparts --- that's the common notion these days, right?

Guess again.

Not all thin people are healthier. They can be termed as TOFI, or 'thin outside-fat inside.'

British researchers have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show that many slim people out there who have normal body weight are probably carrying around hidden layers of fat. Where? These dangerous fat deposits are wrapping their hearts, livers, and pancreata, and these can spell trouble.

If you ever wonder why you know some younger and supposedly slimmer friends of yours have diabetes and heart problems already, these new findings might help explain why.

Prof. Jimmy Bell, who heads the molecular imaging group of the UK's Medical Research Council's centre at Imperial College, London, is the lead researcher of these hidden fat layers. He says:
"The important message is people shouldn't be happy just because they look thin; it's not about looking fit or looking thin, it's about being healthy. You can look healthy, but have a lot of fat internally, which can have a detrimental effect on your health."
The guy you see in the image above is Ben Schwartz, a 28-year old man who is hardly overweight, has a normal BMI, and has a daily lifetyle he described as half-spent in the office and half-spent outside. He has no time to go the gym like most of us. He has more than 20 litres of fat in his body, of which nearly 4 litres are hidden dangerously. Prof. Bell says that amount of fat is "on the high side of healthy." Conclusion--- Mr Scwartz may look healthy but he still needs to exercise more.

Someday I hope they can include this imaging study in annual check-ups. Looks can be deceiving. According to Prof. Bell, Japan's Sumo wrestlers eat 5,000 calories daily and have BMI values exceeding 50, but they have very little internal fat. They also have low levels of triglycerides and cholesterol and low insulin resistance making them less prone to heart problems and diabetes. They look fat, yes, but they are actually healthier than most of us. They have managed to put all their fat on the outside.

Dieting is never enough. We must move and move always. Run, walk, jump, or do whatever to exercise our bodies at least 3-4 times a week. Fat which is skin-deep won't kill us, it's the fat we hide that will. We must get rid of it now.

10 reactions:

Rowena Hullfire said...

Agree wholeheartedly.

It would be interesting to see these images for a person over time. The typical pattern is to build up fat intramuscularly, like a well marbled steak, and in the abdominal cavity, before packing it on in places where it makes a person look overweight.

There's overweight people who are healthy because they exercise and their hearts, CV system, and blood lipids are like an athlete's. There's thin people who never move a muscle, and they are overfat but small, with weak hearts, plaque in their arteries, and high cholesterol. They might live on diet Coke to stay thin, but they're weak and fat and ready for disease.

Disclaimer: I'm the healthy strong athlete with those pesky middle aged fat deposits that won't go away! But it's the lower belly/hips/butt, not the danger zone. My strength and health has been scientifically, medically verified several times over the last year and a half: blood tests, EKG, chest X ray and CT scans, etc.

I'm not a doc. I learned all this stuff in college A&P courses in the 80s. Covert Bailey did a good job explaining it in plain English for the masses in his "Fit or Fat" series of books. This isn't really new information. However, most people tend to keep making judgements about overweight people without knowing the target's stats on the things that really count.

Rygel said...

OMG! I might actually have fat??? hahaha.. seriously doc, have you heard of the chinese appetite stimulant: 'Ling zhi chuang yao wan'? any comments bout it?

may said...

welcome back.

so, i want to be thin,AND healthy.

Dr. Emer said...

Rowena: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Welcome to my blog. :)

Rygel: Oh yes. You might be very surprised when you see your scan results. Your genes play a large role in this. No, I haven't heard of that Chinese appetite stimulant. Why?!? Do you need it? ;)

May: Hello! Thanks, busy pa din. 'Hope you're doing fine on your end. Ingat lagi at wag magpaka-toxic. ;)

duke said...

hi Doc E!

Aren't MRIs used to scan the brain? It will probably cost a bomb to have your whole body scanned.

Anonymous said...

I've been using it since December last year... and it works... it's like a miracle :) but i'm worried about what it contains... i can't read chinese.

i gained in 2 months more weight than i gained in the past 10 years!

bayi said...

Is it harmful to have an MRI scan for the whole body every year if we go for a medical check-up?

Anonymous said...

I am slightly overweight (my BMI is just at the bottom of the overweight category and my fat level last time I checked was at about 15/16%) mostly in the stomach and my thighs. However I cycle at least four miles every day and also have a fair bit of muscle (the old adage "I have a six pack but it's hidden by fat" is true for me). Is it possible that I am healtheir than some of my thinner friends who tend to drive everywhere.

Anonymous said...

im skinny and fit. i gotta 6 pack

Anonymous said...

i love eating. i never gained a pound. and i never work. but i have a pack. Strange!!!!!!!!!