Good News about Good Fat
September 26, 2005
By: Shelagh McNally for Uterus1
Curvy women rejoice! New research is showing that fat carried on the legs, hips and buttocks may actually protect against heart disease and diabetes. Two separate Danish studies have found that hip fat contains adiponectin, a beneficial anti-inflammatory protein hormone that prevents arteries swelling up and becoming blocked.
| Average female body dimensions:|
Weight: 143 lbs
From 1987 until 1988, researchers at the Institute of Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen examined almost 3,000 men and women from 35 to 65 years old, measuring their height, weight and body mass index. The team, led by Professor Berit Heitmann, a professor at the Institute, then analyzed Danish health registers from 1998 until 2001 to see how many of the participants had cardiovascular problems and how many had died. They found women with the biggest hips with a traditional hourglass or pear shaped figure had an 87 percent reduction in deaths, an 86 percent reduction in coronary heart disease and a 46 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease. The same benefits did not extend to women with small hips. The Danish scientists found the ideal measurements for women were at least size 14, with hips of 40 inches or more.
Not all fat is created equal. Bad is the visceral fat responsible for expanding waistlines while good is the peripheral fat found on legs, arms, thighs and buttocks. The findings about beneficial is surprising both doctors and researchers alike. “Our most important and somewhat surprising finding is that peripheral fat mass may overrule the adverse effects of visceral fat mass,” says the László B. Tankó, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s lead at the Center for Clinical and Basic Research in Denmark. Tankó and his team studied 1,356 women ages 60-85, measuring each woman's fat mass in the trunk or belly as well as the arms and legs and also evaluating her atherosclerosis. They also found women with excessive fat in the arms, legs, hips, and buttocks had less hardening of the arteries. “Hormones derived from peripheral fat mass may enhance insulin sensitivity and thereby improve lipid and glucose status, whereas those from visceral fat seem to exhibit the opposite effect,” commented Tankó.
Another study at the University of Colorado took a closer look at the role peripheral and visceral fat plays. “Leg fat may simply be far enough removed the central circulation and act as a trap for triglycerides (fats)," explained lead researcher Dr. Rachael E. Van Pelt, an assistant geriatrics professor at the University of Colorado. Her study, published in the August 2005 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, examined 95 post-menopausal women, assessing their fat distribution and measuring the levels of sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in their blood. Women with an apple shape had high levels of all three, indicating an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Those least at risk for heart problems had high peripheral fat but low visceral fat, followed by obese women and lean women.
|Did You Know?|
| America’s ideal female body:|
1950s: Marilyn Monroe: 37-23-36, 135lbs
1960s: Twiggy: 32AA-22-32, 91lbs
1970s: Cheryl Tiegs, 34C-24-34, 120 lbs
1980s: Cindy Crawford: 34B-26-35, 130 lbs
1990s: Kate Moss 33A-23-35, 105 lbs
2005: Gisele Bundchen: 34C-24-34, 120 lbs
"If a woman is fortunate enough to store her fat primarily in the legs, hips and thighs and can keep from gaining much fat in the abdominal region, then her risk of cardiovascular disease will likely be low," explained Dr. Van Pelt. Van Pelt's team also found that those with wide waists lost any benefits of leg fat and liposuction of thigh fat was unadvisable. The team wants to conduct more research to investigate the apparent beneficial effects of fat found on the lower body.
All three studies support previous findings that found that both men and women with small hips are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease. "It seems that the protection is not a matter of wide hips, it's the detrimental effect of narrow hips with a lack of muscle fat, or bone or a combination of both. Fat on hips is different than fat on the abdomen. If you do not have enough of this fat you may risk heart attacks," commented Professor Berit Heitmann.
Fat is good. Praise the lord and pass the chocolate cake!
Last updated: 26-Sep-05