A study has found that thin people may lower their risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes by carrying a few extra pounds on their hips and thighs.
According to journal Cell Metabolism, the research shows that having a bit of extra fat in a person’s lower body may be good for their health.
Simply, women who are pear-shaped tend to be healthier as the bottom and thighs are safer places to store fat on the body.
Fat might not spend a lifetime on the hips, but it is stored there for months, which is better than belly fat, released around two hours after a meal, the German study revealed.
This implies that the fat is not transported to the heart and liver, where it can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar and a greater risk of illness in later life.
The study’s lead author, Dr Norbert Stefan, from the University of Tübingen explains: “It is better for people of normal weight to be pear-shaped rather than apple-shaped, so that weight is carried on the bottom half of their body rather than around the middle.
“The hips and thighs offer ‘safe storage’ for fat, stopping it from getting into the blood and reaching the organs.”
The belief by many is that thin people with a normal body mass index (BMI) are healthy simply because they are not overweight.
But for an unlucky one in five of this group, the risk of death and cardiovascular disease is more than three-fold higher. In spite of their normal body size, this can put them in greater danger than some obese people, the study revealed.
What more did the study find?
The researchers found that those with bigger thighs and hips could be protecting themselves from diabetes and heart problems.
The researchers looked at 981 people with a high risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and found that those with smaller hips and thighs were at greater risk.
This was based on MRI scans of fat distribution around the body and fitness checks.
Dr Stefan said: “Fat in the hips and thighs is largely different from fat in the abdomen, called visceral fat. In pear-shaped people, these areas work like a sponge, with fat stored in fat cells where it cannot do much harm.”
In effect, the study shows that being pear-shaped is better for lean people, but offers little help for those who are overweight.