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Is Being Fat Necessarily Bad for Health?


From a health perspective, is there anything INHERENTLY bad about having high body fat? Is high body fat merely CORRELATED with death or is it a direct CAUSE of death?

Suppose someone has a largely pristine diet. They eat 4,000-5,000 cals/day, but have 15-20% body fat due to high cal intake. They eat only whole, natural foods (meat, fish, dairy, veggies, fruit, nuts, exvoo, oatmeal, etc). Plenty of omega-3's. No sugar/HFCS or shitty carbs. They lift 4 days a week - heavy compound lifts with some accessories. Also 2-3 short, intense cardio sessions per week.

Anything remotely unhealthy here? Causes of death associated with obesity (heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, etc.) are all caused by poor nutrition and lack of exercise (which cause increased body fat), but is there anything bad about carrying around the extra body fat itself?

My point - excess body fat among athletes has a bad rep. Society blindly views skinny people as healthy, which can negatively influence people's approaches for living a healthy lifestyle. In reality, I believe the "overweight" person in the above example would be significantly healthier and have a stronger heart than many skinny people. Most people would dismiss the overweight athlete as a fat ass, even if they knew he was an athlete.

I'm interested what you all think. Admittedly, I'm no expert in epidemiology.


15-20% body fat is actually a healthy range, just not optimal for aesthetics. So no, its not unhealthy. And you also have to consider how fat people become fat. They eat shitty food and move very little. If you're eating a healthy diet and working out, its damn near impossible for your body fat to get ridiculously high.


^^^ I agree

Skinny people have heart attacks too...

Lifestyle is the #1 indicator of how healthy a person is.


Correct, 99% of people get fat from shitty diet and no exercise. I'm just saying that it seems like the poor diet/exercise are killing people... not the fact that they are fat. Therefore body fat is correlated with death but not the cause. At least that's how I understand it.

I have seen guys that are serious lifters who have higher body fat. Usually older guys or just endomorphic. Although I don't know what their diet is like.

I'm more mesomorphic and I still gain body fat at about 4,000 cal/day (all very clean calories) and lifting 4 days/week.


Why are you comparing 20% or less body fat with being unhealthy?

It isn't.

Being 30+% IS unhealthy because that would qualify you as OBESE. Simply carrying body fat is NOT unhealthy and less than 20% is pretty damn average, especially today.

Some active bodybuilder who is 20% body fat while weighing 280lbs isn't going to be unhealthy simply because of their body fat level.

Some sedentary person weighing 200lbs at 40% body fat IS at risk.


According to today's "standards" X, you and I are obese. :slight_smile:
That stupid BMI thing really fucked everybody up.

I have been down to 6% BF before and that was probably the most unhealthy I have ever felt in my life. I didn't try to compete or anything, just wanted to see if I could do it. I got there, but it sucked being there for any length of time. My body is happy in the 12-15% range, so that's where I stay.

I don't think there is anything wrong with someone (male) being up to 20% if they are eating right most of the time and consistently exercising. However, anyone that eats and trains consistently probably won't be in the 20% range too long if they don't want to be.

I have read that there is some correlation between visceral fat and heart attacks/diabetes.


hate to break it to you but if you're fat, you're fat. doesn't matter how "healthy" of a road you took to getting there.


An aspect that seems to have some importance is not just how fat you are, but how you are fat. Visceral fat and a big belly seems more dangerous than subcutaneous fat stored evenly over the body.

And being fat in itself is not dangerous. There are plenty of fatasses that don't get heart attacks and who live happily. As someone said, the danger lies in the surprisingly slippery slope that leads to fatness. I feel like pointing out that studies have confirmed that regular opera visits are beneficial for health. One wonders if the health benefits could arise from being rich enough to regularly visiting the opera while having enough spare time to regularly visit the opera. This shows that it's often the explanation to the connection rather than the observed connection itself that is interesting.


[quote]kakno wrote:
And being fat in itself is not dangerous. There are plenty of fatasses that don't get heart attacks and who live happily.quote]

LOL wow. So because people who are fat don't die of a heart attack, being fat isn't dangerous?


Is being of "normal weight" and dying of a heart attack make being that weight dangerous? No. kakno's point was that just because someone is fat doesn't automatically sign them up to die from something that people perceive as a "fat person's death." There is no absolute that you will die from a heart attack/diabetes/ice cream overdose just because you happen to be flabbier than normal.
There are a lot of dumbasses on this site that think all powerlifters are fat. Perception of fat has to be part of it too.


If a male is at, say, 25-30% fat, they're definitely overfat or obese. So even if they are active and eat healthy (just too much) I'd say they are at increased risk of metabolic syndrome / diabetes-like conditions. The fat cells are still secreting hormones and jacking up their systems.


just because it doesn't automatically sign them up to death by ice cream doesn't mean it isn't dangerous to be fat. Russian roulette is still dangerous, even if you dont die from it.

If you're greater than 20% bf, you're fat. It doesn't matter if you stuff your face with pizza for the sake of "powerlifting" or if you just do it because you have no self control, if its making you fatter, its not healthy.




Fuck that. Eat if that's what makes you happy. You can always get a gastric bypass when you get sick of being fat.


1) it is very hard to get "fat" on healthy foods while remaining physically active.

2) the adipose tissue is hormonally active, and produces several cytokines and other hormones, including ones that are highly inflammatory and some that directly causes insulin resistance. This is not a problem for anyone lean or average or whatever we shall call it, but when adipocytes reach a certain size/number, they will run amok and overproduced the nasty stuff. At what body fat level this happens is probably highly individual and also very dependent on the placement of the fat eg. visceral fat is way worse than subcutaneous fat. A high intake of antiinflammatory nutrients will probably attenuate much of this, but then again, it is then unlikely that you would be fat in the first place.

This is by the way a one of the main reasons why obesity is correlated with diabetes, cancer and heart disease.




Arbitrary number choice. That wasn't the focus of my question. I'm just interested in whether having higher body fat is inherently unhealthy.


I don't think anyone will argue that fat people aren't fat.

From a health/disease perspective, do you think there is a difference between:
a) Someone who lifts and eat well at 20% body fat
b) Someone who's sedentary and eat like shit at 20% body fat


Thank you. Very helpful post.


There is probably a difference. I once read a study in which thinness and fitness were linked with markers of health. From healthiest to least healthy:
thin and fit
fat and fit
thin and unfit
fat and unfit