Jan. 14, 2010 -- Pear trumps apple when it comes to body shape and your health.
A new review suggests that having body fat stored in your thighs and backside may actually be good for you. Especially compared with the risks of storing excess fat around the mid-section.
Researchers reviewed recent studies on the health effects of body fat distribution and found that having body fat in the thighs and backside, known as gluteofemoral fat, helps protect against heart disease and diabetes.
It’s not the first time experts have said that body fat distribution may play a significant role in health and disease risk. Previous studies have already shown that belly or abdominal fat raises the risk of heart disease by increasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and is also an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
In contrast, researchers say the protective role of gluteofemoral fat is striking.
“In day-to-day metabolism it appears to be more passive than the abdominal depot and it exerts its protective properties by long-term fatty acid storage,” write researcher Konstantinos Manolopoulos of the University of Oxford in England and colleagues in the International Journal of Obesity.
Butt Fat Beats Belly Fat
Researchers say the protective effects of lower-body fat distribution, which is typical of a pear-shaped body type, has been confirmed in many studies in people with a wide range of age, weight, and health status.
Gluteofemoral fat is measured by thigh circumference, hip circumference, and fat deposits on the legs. This type of lower-body fat storage takes more time to accumulate and is harder to break down than upper body fat.
Belly or abdominal fat is designed to be built up and broken down quickly for use by the body. But the breakdown of this type of body fat releases a stream of inflammatory proteins known as cytokines that have been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
Researchers say fewer of these pro-inflammatory cytokines are released when lower body fat is broken down, and studies show people with higher levels of this type of fat have healthier cholesterol levels.
In addition, researchers say certain health conditions that cause a loss of lower body fat, such as Cushing’s syndrome and lipodystrophy, with redistribution of fat to abdominal areas lead to serious metabolic problems.