Women who are ‘pear-shaped’ may be healthier than ‘apple-shaped’

Henrietta Brewer
July 2, 2019

The investigators found that women whose fat was stored mostly around the middle (apple-shaped) had nearly twice the risk of heart disease or stroke, compared with women whose weight was stored in their legs.

The scientists said "apple-shaped" women should try to lose belly fat and become more "pear-shaped". The study, which followed over 2,500 postmenopausal women for nearly 20 years, showed that neither body fat percentage nor fat mass could be linked to an increased risk for heart disease.

So this message is very important: "even for women with a healthy body weight, "apple shape" or "pear shape" still matters", said study author Professor Qibin Qi, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY.

On the flip side, that risk was 40 percent lower in women whose weight was mostly in the legs, compared to those who had the least weight in their legs. It involved 2,683 women who were part of the Women's Health Initiative in the United States of America, which recruited almost 162,000 postmenopausal women between 1993 and 1998 and followed them until February 2017.


Post-menopausal women who carry weight around their middle may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, according to new research.

"Our results showed that relatively higher trunk fat levels were associated with various metabolic disturbances" including elevated insulin levels, systemic inflammation, and abnormal cholesterol levels, concluded the study authors.

"Whether the pattern of the associations could be generalizable to younger women and to men who had relatively lower regional body fat remains unknown", Dr. Qui said. These women were more than three times more likely to develop heart disease than women who had the opposite shape: fatter thighs and flatter stomachs. They also believe leg fat may reduce heart disease risk due to "anti-inflammatory factors".

"Measurement of waist circumference is also recommended by national organisation to provide additional information, but usually only in those with a BMI between 25 to 34.9 kg/m2". The researchers hypothesized that body fat deposits in certain regions were associated with an altered risk for CVD. The distribution of body fat can be shaped by genetics, as well as by eating and exercise habits.


"While there have been some large studies of genetic determinants of upper- and lower-body fat, fewer large studies have focused on lifestyles factors, though modifiable factors such as physical activity and dietary intakes are thought to play key roles in determining an individual's fat distribution", said Dr Qi.

Women with apple-shaped figures are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes as pear-shaped women, a major study reveals.

The reason leg fat might be protective is not well understood, but it is not causing problems elsewhere in the body.


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