What It Means to Be “Skinny Fat”

The ratio of fat to lean body mass is a greater determinant of health than body weight.

Do you know someone who can eat whatever he or she wants without ever gaining an ounce? No need to be envious anymore, because science says body composition—the ratio of fat to lean body mass—is a greater determinant of health than just plain body weight.

Normal-weight obesity, also known as “skinny fat,” is a growing problem in the United States. These terms describe a person’s body composition that is high in fatty tissue in comparison to lean tissue, while still within normal limits of the body mass index (BMI). Those who are considered to be “skinny fat” do not appear to be overweight; however, they have a high percent body fat, especially visceral fat—the fat that surrounds vital organs.

A major problem for these folks is that they often are misclassified as healthy when they actually could be at high risk for chronic disease. The fact is that “skinny” is not at all synonymous with “fit and healthy”. In the same manner that muscular athletes can still have optimal body composition while technically being in the overweight BMI category, people who appear to be thin can actually have high levels of body fat. Think of sumo wrestlers who can weigh upwards of 300 pounds—it is possible that they are more fit and healthy than the thin spectators who have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio.

A recent study showed that percent body fat was inversely related to cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF)—a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease and premature death (1).  Subjects that had larger amounts of body fat were found to be less fit, independent of body weight or stature.

Numerous studies show similar trends between body fat and risk of chronic disease and mortality. While much focus has been on how increased body weight can lead to a greater risk of disease, little emphasis has been on the health risks associated with being underweight and unfit.

In a study that reviewed the relationship between cancer mortality and various adiposity (obesity) measures as well as fitness (quantified as the duration of maximal treadmill exercise test), researchers found that unfit, underweight subjects were at a higher risk of mortality than the obese, fit subjects (2). These results suggest that, in addition to weight management, physical activity should be emphasized as a critical part of a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention.

“Good health is more than a BMI or a number on a scale. We know that people who choose a healthy lifestyle enjoy better health,” reported Keith Bachman, M.D., a weight-management specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute, in a press release. Dr. Bachman emphasized a balanced diet, physical activity, and stress management as healthy lifestyle practices.

In addition to supporting weight loss and preventing weight gain, increasing your muscle mass contributes to overall health and prevention of disease.

Take skinny out of your vocabulary and focus more on healthy, strong, and fit. Get there by incorporating more protein into your diet with Isagenix IsaLean products (Shakes, Bars, and Soups), IsaPro, and IsaLean Pro, which pack in anywhere from 18 to 35 grams of undenatured whey protein to promote and maintain muscle and strength.














  1. Lakoski SG, Barlow CE, Farrell SW, Berry JD, Morrow JR, Jr., Haskell WL. Impact of body mass index, physical activity, and other clinical factors on cardiorespiratory fitness (from the Cooper Center longitudinal study). Am J Cardiol 2011;108:34-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2011.02.338
  2. Farrell SW, Finley CE, McAuley PA, Frierson GM. Cardiorespiratory fitness, different measures of adiposity, and total cancer mortality in women. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2011;19:2261-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.345

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Peptide in Whey Boosts Heart Health

A whey-derived bioactive peptide promotes more blood vessel relaxation, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut found that a peptide extract from undenatured whey protein improved endothelial function in middle-aged adults, thus reduced the burden of blood flow on the heart.

Measuring flow-mediated dilation (FMD), an indicator of arterial stiffness, the authors reveal that a whey protein extract successfully reminds arteries to relax. Noting that previous studies have found that dairy proteins support healthy blood pressure, this is the first research documenting a direct benefit of whey protein on endothelial function in an elderly, at risk, population.

Researchers dosed 21 men and women between the ages of 45 and 65 with a 5 gram supplement of whey protein extract or a placebo. Amino acid concentrations, FMD, insulin, and compounds known to act on the blood vessels were measured for 2 hours after ingestion.

The authors reported an increase in vasodilation (vessel relaxation) by 1 to 1.5 percent. Although a small number, the researchers emphasize that this change packs a big punch. A stiffer artery accompanies a low FMD. Boosting arterial elasticity by just 1 percentage point, the researchers explain, cuts potential perils to the heart by a factor of 12.

“The findings of the present study indicate that acute ingestion of an extract derived from whey protein was rapidly absorbed and improved endothelium-dependent dilation in older adults with vascular endothelial dysfunction,” the authors report.

Whey’s benefit on blood pressure, the authors suggest, may be explained by this relaxation of the vessels, allowing for easier circulation throughout the body. According to these findings, the rapidly absorbed amino acids found in whey protein promote vasodilation—a likely explanation for the decreases in blood pressure reported in other studies.

The jury is still out on how the composition of whey protein, and this whey protein extract, enables arterial release. For example, two important factors in vascular health are nitric oxide—a potent vasodilator—and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), an important enzyme in blood pressure regulation. Interestingly, however, the whey protein supplement failed to effect levels of either nitric oxide or ACE, suggesting other likely ways may be responsible for whey’s benefits on circulation.

The researchers used a bioactive tri-peptide—a short protein chain consisting of three amino acids—derived from whey. Maintaining the integrity of this protein chain, from milk, in processing, and through the gut, may be the key to explaining how this extract boosts endothelial function.

Amino acids are used to build body proteins; peptides, on the other hand, are used to communicate, interact with, and direct the functional responses of cells. Undenatured whey protein undergoes less processing and is more likely to retain these bioactive peptides—preserving the small protein during absorption is the tough part.

This research suggests that the hearty benefits of this tripeptide may come from the nature of the structure, not just the amino acids that it is composed of. Further investigation, the authors write, is required to confirm that this peptide retains its structure during absorption and goes on to act as a signaling molecule in the body. In this case, the tripeptide’s signal is acting on the arterial walls.

Tight blood vessels counteract cardiac health, an effect common in aging. With room for more research, the authors write that older individuals experiencing impaired endothelial function could release some strain in the arteries by eating these bioactive peptides sourced from whey protein.

For more information about this topic and other health and wealth related topics use the following websites:














Ballard KD et al. Acute effects of ingestion of a novel whey-derived extract on vascular endothelial function in overweight, middle-aged men and women. British Journal of Nutrition 2012.