Are You Metabolically Obese?

Weight is not the only factor that determines whether a person is obese or not. Up to now, BMI has been the parameter used to diagnose obesity in an individual.
Are You Metabolically Obese?

Last update: 03 October, 2018

Although it may sound strange, people who appear to be thin, may actually be metabolically obese.

You might be wondering who these individuals are? In this article, we will define metabolically obese individuals. These are people who are not overweight, but, they have excess fat in their bodies.

While BMI typically correlates with body fat percentage quite well, there are people with a normal BMI and normal weight who are actually metabolically obese.

A metabolically obese thin person, is a person with a BMI of less than 25, who has a greater abdominal-visceral adiposity. They have a resistance to insulin, high blood pressure, a lower level of physical activity, and an atherogenic lipid profile.

Metabolically obese thin people, prove that being “thin” does not equal being healthy. Beyond weight, other factors such as body fat percentage do matter.

Skinny Fat

Difference between getting thin

“Skinny fat” is the colloquial term used to describe thin people who have a “good body” but little muscle fat. The medical term for this is Metabolically Obese, Normal Weight (NOMW).

According to an article in the Huffington Post by Dr Mark Hyman, “The health of these people can reach such a vulnerable point that, it is better to be fat and athletic, than thin and out of shape.” And the reason for this is that the body can store various types of fat.

Suffering from NOMW negatively affects the consumption of some types of carbohydrates and the consequent production of insulin. It favors the presence of visceral fat, as well as metabolic changes that cause inflammation and muscle loss.

On the other hand, adipose tissue promotes resistance to insulin, a substance that regulates blood sugar levels. The presence of visceral fat creates ideal conditions for the development of diabetes, regardless of height or weight.

A scientific study published in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, showed that 61 percent of adolescents of normal weight suffered from at least one disease. This relates to the high level of fat in their bodies, including hypertension, pre-diabetes, or high cholesterol. In the case of young, overweight and obese people, the figures were lower, 47 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

How to avoid being metabolically obese

The first lifestyle change that you must make is your diet. Try to incorporate animal protein (chicken, eggs, or fish), seeds, and an abundance of vegetables, and fruits. Also try to favor whole grains over white, in addition to avoiding processed foods. These are healthy habits that can help to regulate your blood sugar level. Therefore, you can decrease your risk of suffering from diabetes.

diet to maintain a healthy weight

It is also necessary to reduce the consumption of soft drinks, processed juices, and alcohol, which are major sources of calories and sugar.

Additionally, you should increase the amount of protein that you consume in each meal, especially at breakfast. Starting the day with animal or vegetable protein allows you to control your hunger and speed up your metabolism.

Omega 3 fatty acids, usually found in sardines and salmon, among other foods, are essential for controlling cholesterol. In order to complement these changes, apart from eating well, you should also exercise. Cardiovascular exercises, such as swimming, running, or cycling, do a particularly good job in strengthening the muscles, which help to control visceral fat. 

As you now know, being thin but metabolically obese, has to do partly with your lifestyle. Although, do not forget that genetic factors also have some influence.

Visit your doctor for tests on your blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure, and your body fat percentage. The results will tell you whether or not you are “skinny fat.” 


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.