For postmenopausal women, being “pear-shaped” may be healthier than being “apple-shaped.”
Even in women with normal body mass index, the location of fat varies. Apple-shaped women have more fat around the waist, pear-shaped more around the hips and legs.
Writing in the European Heart Journal, researchers studied 2,683 postmenopausal women with normal B.M.I.s, following them for an average of 18 years. They found 291 cases of cardiovascular disease.
After adjusting for other factors, they found that neither fat mass nor body fat percentage was associated with the risk for cardiovascular disease.
But those in the highest one-quarter for percent of fat around the waist had a 91 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease or stroke compared with those in the lowest one-quarter. And those in the highest one-quarter for leg fat mass had a 32 percent reduced risk compared with those in the lowest.
Women who had both higher percentages of waist fat and lower percentages of leg fat had more than three times the risk compared to those with the opposite fat distribution.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know how to relocate fat from the belly to the legs,” said the senior author, Qibin Qi, an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “This is influenced by genetics. Exercise will help with weight loss, but we don’t know what kind of exercise would relocate body fat.”
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