It is all right to be fat -- so long as you are fit, according to a study. How many inches you measure round your waist may matter less than how often you visit the gym or play football.
Rising obesity is one of the world's greatest health challenges but it may be that fatness is the wrong target for concern and fitness is what really counts.
Researchers have found that up to half of people who are defined as "obese" are in fact fit and healthy.
Obesity is known to be linked to a range of chronic diseases. But there is a group of obese individuals who are metabolically healthy, as measured by how well their heart and lungs perform, who appear to be protected from the consequences of carrying excess fat.
They account for up to 46pc of obese individuals, when obesity is measured by the amount of fat on the body, or up to 30pc when the standard measure of body mass index (BMI) is used.
A man with more than 25pc body fat (30pc for a woman) is defined as obese while for BMI, a composite measure of height and weight, a reading above 30 is considered obese.
Some sportsmen may have a BMI above 30 even though most of their bulk is lean muscle.
The study, published in the 'European Heart Journal', involved more than 40,000 mainly white professional people in the US who were followed from 1979 to 2003.
Those who were fit but obese had a 38pc lower risk of dying than those who were unfit and obese. But there was no difference in the death rate between fit, obese individuals and those who were fit and normal weight.
Dr Francisco Ortega, the chief author, said: "We should stop worrying about fatness and worry more about fitness." (© Independent News Service)