Not Overweight? You May Still Be Fat
In Study, Normal-Weight Women With Body Fat Over 30% Also Had Increased Inflammation
Jan. 12, 2007 -- Women who aren't overweight but still have a high
percentage of body fat may have more inflammation in their bodies, an Italian
Researchers looked at 60 healthy Italian women aged 20-35 living in
Twenty of the women were overweight or obese based on their BMI (body mass
index), which relates height to weight.
Another 20 had a normal BMI, but their body fat was greater than 30%, based
on head-to-toe body scans using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).
The researchers call these women "normal-weight obese" because of
their high percentage of fat.
The remaining 20 women had a normal BMI and body fat less than 30%, based on
the DEXA scans.
When researchers analyzed blood samples from the women, they found those who
were overweight or obese had the highest levels of inflammatory chemicals, LDL
("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides (a type
of blood fat).
But the "normal-weight obese" women also had higher levels of
inflammatory chemicals than those with both a normal BMI and lower body
Based on the findings, the normal-weight women with high body fat "were
in an early inflammatory state," the researchers write.
Body fat may release inflammatory chemicals, note researchers Antonino De
Lorenzo, MD, and colleagues, who didn't test that theory in this study. De
Lorenzo works at Rome's University of Tor Vergata.
Chronically high levels of inflammation have been associated with a host of
health problems, including heart disease
Both groups of women with normal BMI had similar levels of cholesterol and
other blood fats, regardless of their body fat.
All the women had normal blood pressure. None had heart disease and none
smoked, abused alcohol, or used birth control pills.
The women weren't followed over time, so it's not clear if they had health
problems later in life.
The data also don't include the women's diet and exercise habits, or whether
genetics affected their amount of body fat.
But the study does show that some women with normal BMI may still have a
high percentage of body fat and elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals.
It appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition's January