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Does a pear shaped body really protect from heart disease or diabetes?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Pear shape body not necessarily healthier than apple shape, finds study.

Perhaps you thought having a pear shaped body is healthier compared to being more like an apple with some fat around the middle. A long-held notion that fat in the thighs or buttocks is less risky for heart disease and diabetes than the kind that accumulates in the belly has just been busted by researchers at UC Davis Health System.

According to the investigators for the study, the health protective effects of fat in the buttocks, thighs and hips is more of a myth than a reality.

Health risks of diabetes, heart disease linked to protein in buttocks fat

Evidence for the finding that is published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism uncovered a protein lurking in buttocks fat that promotes inflammation, insulin resistance that is a precursor to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In the past, researchers believed the aforementioned health risks came mostly from belly fat.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of factors that make us more susceptible to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Having a low HDL or good cholesterol level, high triglyceride level, elevated blood sugar level and hypertension are all components of metabolic dysfunction.

By definition, another component of metabolic syndrome, which affects 35 percent of Americans over age 20, is having a high waist circumference.

Ishwarlal Jialal, lead author of the study and a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and of internal medicine at UC Davis said it's time to get rid of the notion that fat in the gluteal or butt area is '"innocent". ”

It turns out that extra bottom and not just belly fat could indeed set us up for future health risks from high levels of chemerin and low levels of omentin-1, proteins in fat that accumulate in the buttocks.

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For the study, the researchers measured chemicals in the blood that are known to raise the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes in 45 people with at least 3 risks for metabolic syndrome – elevated blood sugar levels, but no diabetes, fat in the mid-section or central obesity and high blood pressure.

The researchers used a control group with two risks for metabolic syndrome who were matched in age and gender.

The researchers measured chemerin, resistin, visfatin and omentin-1 levels in the fat under the skin of the buttocks and in the plasma.

They also measured the inflammatory marker CRP or C-reactive protein, lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), blood glucose and blood pressure.

Compared to the control group, people with buttocks, hip and thigh fat had increased chemerin levels.

Because the protein correlated with metabolic syndrome, the researchers suggest measuring the chemerin might be used as screening tool to identify a person’s risk for heart disease and diabetes.

UC Davis Health System
January 10, 2013

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