New research shows that women with bigger hips and bottoms have a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes than those who store fat around their tummy.
“’It is better for people of normal weight to be pear-shaped rather than apple-shaped, so that weight is carried on the bottom half of their body rather than around the middle,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Norbert Stefan.
“The hips and thighs offer ‘safe storage’ for fat, stopping it from getting into the blood and reaching the organs.”
He goes on to explain that fat in the hips and thighs is “largely different” from fat in the abdomen that surrounds organs, called visceral fat.
“In pear-shaped people, these areas work like a sponge, with fat stored in fat cells where it cannot do much harm.”
Visceral fat, on the other hand, is a worry, says Dr Georgia Rigas, Chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Obesity Management network.
“Fat storage is like real estate,” she says. “It’s all about location, location, location!” Fat deposition around the abdomen is “expensive,” she says – as in, bad for your health.
She even calls such fat “toxic”, saying its presence can contribute to inflammatory changes and has been associated with health issues like “increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, many cancers, fatty liver, infertility (PCOS) and many others”.
Carrying fat around your bottom and hips, on the other hand, she reassures, “Is not hazardous”. That’s because the fat stored in those areas aren’t around your organs, like your heart, lungs and liver.
Mind you, this study looked at people of normal weight. Dr Rigas says when a patient has a BMI of 35 or above, they’re at high risk of developing health issues.
“… So measuring waist circumference in these patients doesn’t add much more information in risk assessment.”
But what should you do if you’re carrying a spare tyre around your middle and are worried about visceral fat? Dr Rigas recommends seeing your GP to have your waist circumference and BMI measured. Your doctor may also have a body composition analysis machine that can determine how much fat your body contains.
If you want to try to reduce your tummy fat, the best way to tackle it is to start with the basics, says personal trainer and holistic health coach, Kylie Anderson. She recommends limiting your intake of sugary and processed food, as these foods tend to head “straight to the belly”.
Once you’ve got your diet in check, she advises doing exercises that will help you shift fat from this area. That means doing cardio, which will burn fat. But you should also do strength training, too. In fact, she recommends exercising 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes a session, with a balance of cardio and strength exercises, mixing things up each time.
“Finding a balance between cardio and strength exercises will set you up for gaining great results, but it needs to be along side healthy eating.”
Notice she doesn’t use the word ‘diet’? That’s because she doesn’t believe in dieting and depriving yourself of foods.
“…Deprivation never lasts and it isn’t good for you especially mentally.”
Of course, that’s great advice for anyone wanting to get in shape because it’s always a good idea to eat healthily and exercise regularly.
Dr Rigas couldn’t agree more. “For me the emphasis has always been about ‘being healthy on the inside’.” (Body and Soul)