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Feel Fat? You May Still Be Fit (And Other Surprising Health Facts)

Exercise

First Posted: 12/09/11 06:59 AM ET Updated: 12/09/11 07:12 AM ET

If you've been hiding from the bathroom scale since Thanksgiving, here's some good news: A growing body of evidence now suggests that being overweight has its health benefits and that, in fact, a person's fitness level is far more important than their weight level.

These days it seems the medical community is constantly challenging the conventional wisdom on a number of misguided assumptions and old wives' tales once viewed as irrefutable facts. Indeed, if you're keeping track at home, chocolate, coffee and beer are now all confirmed to have major health benefits.

In the spirit of blowing the lid off popular belief, HP50 decided to bring you our by-no-means-comprehensive list of nine surprising health facts, which may ease your guilt about some old habits.

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  • You Can Be Fat And Fit

    For people with osteoporosis, a few extra pounds may actually be beneficial. "The more stress you put on bones, the more they grow, so someone who weighs more will have denser bones," <a href="http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-11-2011/carrying-few-extra-pounds-may-be-healthy.html" target="_hplink">says Timothy Church, M.D., professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA.</a> "That's an advantage as we grow older and lose one to two percent of muscle a year." Another plus to a little body fat is that it provides "volume replacement," filling in wrinkles and sunken areas of the face to provide a more youthful appearance.

  • Coffee Is Good For You

    Although excessive coffee consumption is associated with cardiovascular problems like increased heart rate or blood pressure, moderate coffee drinking has been shown to have several health benefits. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/coffee-health-benefits_n_1064577.html#s440659&title=Coffee_Could_Lower" target="_hplink">A recent Harvard study reported</a> that women who drank coffee in moderation were less likely to suffer from depression than women who drank no coffee at all. In addition, caffeine has been shown to help fight Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer.

  • Red Wine Helps The Heart

    The combination of alcohol and antioxidants in red wine <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/HB00089" target="_hplink">helps prevent heart disease</a> by increasing levels of "good" cholesterol and has been shown to protect against artery damage. While doctors have long been wary of advising patients to consume alcohol, most agree on the heart-healthy benefits of drinking red wine in moderation, so have a glass!

  • Walking Is Just As Good For You As Running

    While it's true that walking doesn't burn calories as quickly as running, a study published in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-feigin-ms-cscs/walking-vs-running-which-is-better_b_926819.html" target="_hplink">Journal of the American Medical Association</a> found that brisk walking is very effective for reducing deep abdominal fat, the most dangerous kind of fat. Running may burn twice the calories per minute as walking, but if you quit after 5 minutes because you can't breathe or your knees feel like they're about to explode, what's the point? Walking is an especially effective weight-loss activity because it's so easily adaptable to your fitness level.

  • Chocolate Fights Heart Disease

    According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, dark chocolate - not milk chocolate or white chocolate - is a potent antioxidant capable of fighting free radicals and other destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments. If you eat dark chocolate for the health benefits however, be sure to balance out the high sugar intake with other healthier foods.

  • Sex Burns Nearly 180 Calories Per Hour

    "Sex is a great mode of exercise," <a href="http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-sex" target="_hplink">says Patti Britton, PhD</a>, a Los Angeles sexologist and president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Therapists. Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more. It may not sound like much, but it adds up: 42 half-hour sessions will burn 3,570 calories, more than enough to lose a pound.

  • Gin Reduces Menstrual Bloating

    Juniper berries, the active ingredient in dry gin, is a diuretic, and <a href="http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/How-to-use-alcohol-as-medication-Health-Advice" target="_hplink">has been shown to relieve menstrual bloating</a>, gas and cramping. An ounce or two of warm gin should put cramping-related discomfort at bay for most women. But if you do try this remedy, don't drive!

  • Beer Makes You Smarter

    A study published by <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15659724" target="_hplink">the National Center for Biotechnology Information</a> found that moderate beer drinkers who consumed less that 15.0 g of alcohol per day (about one drink) had better average cognitive scores than non-drinkers. Researchers pointed out that alcohol raises HDL cholesterol (that's the good cholesterol), which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and better cognitive functioning.

  • Unrequited Love Can Be Cured?

    While scientists may not have yet figured out how to make individuals fall in love, <a href="http://www.usa-health-center.com/_love_could_be_cured.asp" target="_hplink">researchers at the University of Alabama and Tabriz Medical University in Iran</a> found that melatonin and vasotocin might just cure love sickness. Some researchers believe love is a specific emotion which works through parts of the brain, and that the brain chemical dopamine is heavily involved. The theory is that the introduction of the anti-dopamine hormones melatonin and vasotocin could make result in people falling out of love.

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Filed by Evan Allis  |