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Apple Or Pear - What Body Shape May Be Telling You

Posted May 20 2008 9:10am 1 Comment

Where overweight people carry their extra weight – the waist or hips – can influence their risk of several disorders.

Research has shown that having an “apple-shaped” body, which means fat is mostly stored in the abdominal regions, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, several types of cancer, and probably other disorders. A “pear-shaped” body, which means fat is mostly stored in the hips, butt, and thighs, is less risky, and may actually be protective in some ways, especially for women.

Several factors, particularly gender, influence where fat is distributed. Men store most of their excess fat in the midsection, but women tend to store it lower on the body. Although, women can be apple-shaped as well, particularly after menopause. Heredity and activity level also affect body shape.

Abdominal obesity increases the risk of having high LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar. This combination of problems in known as metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of several chronic diseases.

Furthermore, the fat stored in the midsection is mostly visceral fat, which means it is stored in and around the liver and other organs. Whereas, most of the fat in the hips and thighs is stored just under the skin, which is termed subcutaneous fat. The visceral fat in the abdominal area is more “metabolically active” than subcutaneous fat. These means that it releases substances – certain fatty acids, hormones, and inflammatory compounds – which are thought to account for some of the health problems. For example, chronic inflammation may increase cardiovascular risk.

Unfortunately, spot reduction (losing fat in just one area) is not possible. Therefore, doing excessive amounts of sit-ups and crunches will not cause you to lose fat faster in your midsection. In order to lose the abdominal fat, you have to lose fat throughout your entire body. Fortunately, those areas that accumulate fat faster than others also lose it faster.

A decent measure of your risk for the mentioned diseases and disorders is the waist-to-hip ratio. To determine this, measure your waist at the navel, and your hips at the greatest circumference around the buttocks. Then divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women signifies an above-average risk. A ratio greater than 1.0 for men and 0.9 for women indicates a high risk. It is preferable for a man’s waist to be 10% smaller than his hips, and a women’s waist should be 20% smaller than her hips.

There has been a lot of research on this topic, and I think it is a fairly good assessment of risk. However, I think a qualified doctor should be consulted for anyone that is overweight or obese.

Reference: UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

Comments (1)
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Thanks for the great info. I've heard about the risks of body fat being stored in different areas but this is the first time I've seen a formula to calculate it.
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