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Feature Story

February 2017


Study Shows Majority—Even Athletes—Are 'Overfat'

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By Deborah L. Vence

A new study published in the Frontiers in Public Health revealed that about 76 percent of the world's population—including athletes—are "overfat," a condition described in the study as having sufficient excess body fat to impair health.

Published in January, the research revealed that in addition to most of those who are overweight and obese, others who fall into the overfat category include normal-weight people with increased abdominal fat, and those with a condition called "normal-weight metabolic obesity"—with those who exercise falling into one or more of these categories regularly. (The study also suggests this new terminology should replace the old "overweight" and "obese.")

The obesity epidemic has grown over the past 30 to 40 years. And, the study sheds light on much higher numbers of people who might have unhealthy levels of body fat.

The "overfat" condition is being touted as a "new pandemic that has quietly overtaken the world, and may affect an astonishing 5.5 billion people, many of them athletes."

"The overfat pandemic has not spared those who exercise or even compete in sports," stated Dr. Philip Maffetone, lead author of the study who collaborated with research assistant Ivan Rivera, and Professor Paul B. Laursen, adjunct at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

To boot, the study estimated that 9 to 10 percent of the world population may be underfat, which also is applicable to athletes. While people might think of the condition of underfat as being due to starvation, the number of people starving worldwide is actually rapidly dropping. However, an aging population, an increase in chronic disease and a rising number of excessive exercisers—those with anorexia athletica—are adding to the number of non-starving underfat individuals. Having too little body fat also can impair health. And, this leaves as little as 14 percent of the world's general population with normal body-fat percentages, according to the study.

"This is a global concern because of its strong association with rising chronic disease and climbing healthcare costs, affecting people of all ages and incomes," Maffetone stated.


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