Having fat distributed around your body is actually healthier than just having it round your middle according to a major study of 15,000 people over 15 years carried out by the Mayo clinic in Minnesota.
It doesn’t matter what your bmi is, if you you are “centrally obese” you are more likely to die earlier. If you are a man you are twice as likely to die early.
Central obesity is defined as having a wider waist (measured at the narrowest point) than hips (measured around the widest point of the buttocks) for men and for women having a waist larger than 90% of their hip measurement.
Why should this be? Even Professor Fransisco Lopez-Jiminez, the director of preventive cardiology at the clinic isn’t sure but there are several theories.
- Having fat outside the abdomen is a good thing as it might have some protective effects entirely opposite to bad fats.
- People with an abnormal central distribution of fat often have less muscle mass elsewhere which means they are less able to use sugar in useful ways.
- People who put down fat may be more likely to have a type of fat called “visceral fat” which clumps round the organs. Professor Jimmy Bell from the University of Westminster thought that could be crucial as “over the longterm visceral fat leads to sustained chronic systemic inflammation … believed to have a detrimental effect on many levels – the heart, metabolism, and even cognition“
Professor Bell, who wasn’t involved in the study, thought the research was useful in understanding some of the apparent anomalies in obesity research. “We know from our research that there are different body types where people do not fit into the standard bmi. They might have the right bmi but the wrong fat distribution.”
Professor Lopez-Jiminez also said that more research is needed because “we don’t really know what makes fat go to those areas of the body in some people while in others it might go to the right place”.
Earlier research on women‘s body shape found links between bmi, body shape and dementia.
And height:waist ratio has been strongly recommended as an alternative to the bmi which doesn’t take into account muscle weight.
Main source: The Times