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'Healthy' obesity may have to do with liver
As the debate about whether or not obesity can ever coexist with health rages on, a new study suggests that "healthy obesity" – if there is such a thing – is governed by the liver.
Researchers from the University of Helsinki used a twin study to examine how genetically identical siblings, who were raised in similar environments, could end up with different health outcomes.
Fatty liver is the problem
For each pair of twins in the study, one, on average, weighed about 17 kilograms more than his or her sibling. In the obese twins who had fattier livers than their thinner siblings, researchers found signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and inflammation. But individuals who had similar liver fat to their twin didn't show these symptoms. The obese twins also appeared to have fewer – but larger – fat cells than their thinner twins.
It's not entirely clear why some people accumulate more fat in the liver than others, but it can be caused by an overload of iron, obesity, diet or alcoholism.
The researchers also stressed that "healthy obesity" has the potential to develop into something more dangerous over time.
"What is unknown ... is how the metabolically healthy status is maintained as the individuals age," the authors explained. "While it is possible that they remain healthy, it could also turn out to be a trait that slowly disappears as the 'exposure' to obesity becomes longer."
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