Is Leg Fat Better Than Belly Fat?

Apparently, not all fat is created equal:  your increased health risks could depend on the type of fat you carry.  Indeed, a new study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine advises it is not necessarily the amount of weight you hold but the type of fat you have that puts you at risk for these conditions. 

For example, the study remarks that women who have more “trunk fat” might be at a higher risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) while those who have more “leg fat” could have a lower risk for the same type of coronary artery disease.

The study observed data collected from more than 2,500 women between the ages of 50 and 79, following their health statistics for an average of 18 years.   These women were all postmenopausal with a “normal” Body Mass Index rating.  For the study, though, the researchers measured the amount of fat they carried at their waist and their thighs, to categorized them into one of four groups for each of the two measurements.  One woman, for example, might register in the highest quarter for waist fat but also the second lowest quarter for thigh fat.  

Across the two decade follow-up, 202 of the women involved with the study had reported a heart attack or other incident of coronary heart disease.  In addition, 105 women suffered stroke and 16 experienced both a stroke and some type of coronary heart disease incident. 

Looking at the data, the researchers found that “whole-body” fat was not linked to the higher incidents of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, they found “trunk fat” definitely had correlation with cardiovascular disease.  

According to the study authors, the results demonstrate “relatively higher trunk fat levels were associated with various metabolic disturbances,” which includes systemic inflammation, abnormal cholesterol levels, and elevated insulin levels.

Also, the study found that women who had higher trunk fat and lower leg fat were at a threefold risk for developing cardiovascular disease, compared against women with lower trunk fat and higher leg fat. Furthermore, these risks even held up when observing other known risk factors (smoking, diet, etc).

The results of this study have been published this week in the European Heart Journal.