Are you apple- or pear-shaped? It could signify greater health risk

Are you apple- or pear-shaped? It could signify greater health risk

Where your body stores fat, not just the amount of it, may accurately predict an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes according to a study that compared fat distribution patterns among overweight and obese men and women with their cardiometabolic risk.

People of the same weight or body mass index may have very different risk profiles based on genetics, lifestyle and diet. In addition, body composition differs between men and women, with women having proportionately more fat and men having more muscle mass. Among people with the same BMI, some can be more prone to cardiovascular disease or diabetes than others. Fat present in the abdomen, some organs and muscle tissue — also known as ectopic fat — is linked to the highest risk of disease.

Harvard Medical School researchers examined 109 women and 91 men with an average age of 37. They compared two general body types: apple, where most of the weight is around the midsection, and pear, where most of the fat is around the hips and thighs. They found the men had more fat overall and more fat below the skin than women. Men had more fat around the abdomen and around the internal organs — think beer belly — but also higher muscle and lean mass.

Research has shown that people who carry most of their weight around the abdomen are more prone to having heart disease, diabetes and other complications.

The findings may lead to a greater focus not just on weight and the amount of fat a man or woman has, but more significantly where they are carrying it. The goal is to use this information to better identify people who may be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

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