Too-Thin Thighs Unhealthy?

Study: Thighs Less Than 23 Inches Around May Be Risky, Maybe Because of Too Little Muscle

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 04, 2009

Sept. 4, 2009 -- Having thighs that are too skinny may be a sign of increased risk of death or heart disease, a Danish study shows.

The study, published online in BMJ (formerly called the British Medical Journal), tracked thigh circumference and a host of other traits in more than 2,700 Danish men and women from the late 1980s through 2002.

During that time, 412 participants died and 403 developed cardiovascular disease.

Death and cardiovascular disease were more likely for people with a thigh circumference of less than about 60 centimeters (23.6 inches), measured at the widest part of the thigh, just below the seat.

But there was no advantage to having thighs bigger than that. This wasn't a case of the bigger, the better -- the key threshold was just 23.6 inches.

The findings held regardless of waist circumference, BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, smoking, alcohol use, education, and physical activity.

The study doesn't show why thigh circumference mattered. But the researchers -- who included Berit Heitmann, PhD, of the Institute of Preventive Medicine at Denmark's Copenhagen University Hospital -- suggest that not having enough thigh muscle might be the issue -- and physical activity could build up those muscles.

The findings need to be checked in other studies, and it remains to be seen if thigh circumference will help identify at-risk patients, writes Ian Scott, MBBS, FRACP, director of internal medicine and clinical epidemiology at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia.

Show Sources


Heitmann, B. BMJ, Sept. 4, 2009; advance online edition.

Scott, I. BMJ, Sept. 4, 2009; advance online edition.

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