If you’re bigger around the hips and butt than you’d like to be, there’s some good news for you.
It seems that fat that settles around your thighs and buttocks may be better for you than a spare tire around the middle according to experts from Oxford University. A new review of the data on body fat distribution actually suggests that fat in and around the backside might even offer some health benefit.
“It is the protective role of lower body, that is, gluteofemoral fat that is striking,” explains the team of British researchers in the January 12, 2009 online edition of the International Journal of Obesity. “The protective properties of the lower-body fat depot have been confirmed in many studies conducted in subjects with a wide range of age, BMI and co-morbidities.”
Of course the reason we have fat at all is so the body can store energy for use later on. Naturally this was more important when there wasn’t a fast food place or smoothie shop on every corner, when we weren’t sitting behind a desk, or on a couch most of the time, and when crops failed and food could be scarce.
The CDC uses the term obesogenic to describe an environment where increased food intake is promoted (notice U.S. portion sizes), unhealthy foods are everywhere and we are not physically active on a regular basis.
Healthy people who are carrying a little extra around the backside (usually women) also seem to have lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose levels and higher leptin (a hormone that regulates energy intake and expenditure) levels than those who put on the pounds around the middle.
Think of fat in the butt, hips and thighs as long-term energy storage for the body, which makes it a lot more sluggish in terms of metabolism than the fat around the tummy.
And while fat in the lower body (gluteofemoral is the medical term) isn’t as easy to put on as fat at the middle, it also doesn’t come off so easily either. The interesting tidbit for women is that fat in the buttocks does come off more readily when the demand for energy is really high, as it is when you breastfeed.
Fat in the caboose also seems to do some good for the body because it helps lower levels of immune system cells known as cytokines that promote inflammation – a key factor that’s been implicated in many health problems, heart disease in particular.
If you do have more of your fat at the middle as compared to fat in the lower body, it’s important for you to understand that you’re at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other problems that come with obesity.
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Big Bottoms – Not So Bad After All Continued…
Experts are now finding that the waist-to-hip ratio is even more predictive of heart disease than the BMI (body mass index) by itself.
To get an idea of your own waist-to-hip number, you can use a measuring tape to measure around your hips at the widest part of your butt, and then measure your waist at the narrowest part, usually just above your belly button. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement and you have the waist-to-hip ratio.
Generally a waist-to-hip ratio over 0.85 for women, or 1.0 for men will be considered risky. If this is you, talk to your doctor and take steps now to make things better.
And while the results of this review might have you feeling a bit better about a bigger backside, don’t expect any medical person to tell you that fat in and around the butt, hips and thighs is safe, though it does appear to be less harmful than fat at the waistline.
For now, your best bet, especially if you’re worried about your risk of heart disease, is to take steps to control your weight and lose any excess fat carried in any part of your body.
Daily Health Bulletin
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