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Bigger athletes might not be healthier athletes

October 27, 2009 |  1:35 pm

The can-you-be-fit-and-fat debate just got more fuel courtesy of a study presented this week at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in San Diego.

Ks3ie8nc Researchers zeroed in on football players, especially linemen, to determine whether they have greater cardiometabolic risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high fasting blood glucose levels -- factors that put people more at risk for cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

The study included 69 professional football players and 155 professional baseball players, all currently playing. They were tested for fasting glucose levels, blood pressure, body mass index, triglycerides, cholesterol, waist circumference, insulin resistance and waist-to-height ratio (an assessment often given to athletes who typically have more muscle and less body fat).

The football players overall had higher fasting glucose levels, waist circumference, waist-to-height ratios and BMI compared to baseball players, although blood pressure numbers were lower among football players. Among the 19 linemen in the study, the numbers were even higher for fasting glucose levels, BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio. Some linemen can be bigger than other players.

"Most studies that have examined cardiometabolic risks in professional athletes have been conducted after athletes retire," said study co-author Dr. Michael Selden. "This is one of the first to study athletes in the midst of their playing careers. We expect professional athletes to be in peak physical condition given the demands of their jobs and the amount of time they spend exercising heavily. However, there does not seem to be a complete protective effect of exercise, particularly among the larger athletes -- football linemen. Instead, the impact of their sheer size may outweigh the positive benefits of exercise to mitigate their risk for cardiometabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, and insulin resistance."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Brian Utesch / US Presswire