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Obesity vs. Normal Weight continued...

Those in stage 1 may have slightly elevated blood pressure, for instance, Kuk says. But it's not yet high enough to require medication.

The average BMI of those in stages 0 and 1 was 33. Those in stage 2 had an average BMI of 33.4. Those in stage 3 had an average BMI of 33.5

The message, she cautions, is not that you can become as heavy as you want without consequences. The more you gain, the more likely you are to develop the conditions of those in the higher stage groups, she tells WebMD.

Second Opinion

"Weight confers different risks for different people," says Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

He reviewed the study findings but was not involved in the study.

The fundamental message, he says, is that people should eat healthy food and exercise regularly, even if it doesn't affect their weight.

It is not surprising, he says, that some obese people seem not to be affected adversely. "When you unleash a toxin on the population -- for example, tobacco -- there is a massive increase in disease," he says. Yet, not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer or other lung problems.

Likewise, obesity affects people differently, he says. Some will develop problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, while others will not, he tells WebMD.

Robert Kushner, MD, medical director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, agrees. He also reviewed the paper for WebMD. He was a co-author of a 2009 report describing the new system but did not help develop it, he says.

The message, he says, is "Yes, you should know what your BMI is. In general, the higher your BMI the more fat you have and the higher your risk of developing medical problems." However, there are exceptions.

Those most likely to be obese and stay in the 0 or 1 stage, he says, are those with a high level of fitness.

Those in these lower stages, he says, were not only fitter but ate more healthfully. "Although biology probably has something to do with it, your behaviors will guide, in large part, the outcome of whether you are going to develop illness or not, based on your BMI."

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