Health Care

Post menopause, pear-shaped women might be healthier than apple-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.

The scientists said "apple-shaped" women should try to lose belly fat and become more "pear-shaped".

The researchers found that the highest risk of CVD occurred in women who had the highest percentage of fat around their middle and the lowest percentage of leg fat - they had a more than three-fold increased risk compared to women at the opposite extreme with the least body fat and the most leg fat.

It looked at postmenopausal women between 1993 and 1998 and followed up with them at intervals until early 2017 - an average of 18 years later.

Special attention was paid to studying the relationship between fat distribution and the development of cardiovascular diseases.

The study found "apple-shaped" women, with more fat around the belly, had a more than threefold increased cardiovascular disease risk compared with those who were "pear-shaped", with fat around the hips and thighs.

Needless to say, women who had lower percentages of leg fat and more percentages of waist fat were at risk three times more than those who had the opposite distribution.

"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. This is influenced by genetics.

"An "apple" shape has been associated with increased heart risk in previous studies, but it mostly refers to central obesity among people already have a weight problem", said Qibin Qi, senior author of the study and a researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York.

Qi cautioned, however, that because the study was done among postmenopausal women, the findings might not apply to younger women or men.

"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".

Scientists said having a higher proportion of fat on the legs can protect people from heart disease as it means the fat cannot cause problems elsewhere in the body.

If you're an older woman, your heart disease risk might be shaped by the shape of your body.

In an accompanying editorial [2], Professor Matthias Blüher and Professor Ulrich Laufs, from the University of Leipzig, Germany, write: "The study may inspire novel concepts of how a dysbalance between "atherogenic" and "anti-atherogenic" fat depots may indirectly contribute to vascular damage".

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