Leg Fat Is 'Healthier Than Belly Fat' – But Good Luck Trying To Move It

If only we could tell that pizza where to go...
Malte Mueller via Getty Images

Carrying fat around your stomach is worse for your health than having fat on your legs, a new study suggests – but a magical machine to change your body shape is yet to be invented.

Researchers found postmenopausal women who are “apples” are at greater risk of heart and blood vessel problems than women who are “pears”. (Side note: if we can’t convince medical professionals to stop describing women’s bodies as fruit, what hope is there for the rest of society?

It’s already known that fat stored around the organs in the abdomen increases the risk of metabolic problems, such as worse control of blood sugar levels and higher cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart disease. But the latest study is the first to look at the distribution of weight in this way.

Women in the top 25% of those who stored most fat round their middle had nearly double the risk of heart problems and stroke when compared to the 25% of women with the least fat stored around their middle, the study found.

In contrast, the top 25% of women with the greatest proportion of fat stored in their legs had a 40% lower risk of heart disease compared with women who stored the least fat in their legs.

Diet and exercise are thought to play a part in body shape, but the researchers said there is “no set lifestyle” that is known to relocate fat – and more research is needed. Genetics are also believed to play a significant part in body shape, they added.

Ageing is another factor we can’t control; when women reach menopause, they tend to undergo changes in their body shape and metabolism, the researchers explained. Sometimes, this means more fat is stored around the organs in the body, rather than underneath the skin.

The study, led by Dr Qibin Qi, an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, was conducted among women with healthy BMI – so whether you’re technically “overweight” or not, if you tend to put on weight around your stomach, you’re still screwed (apparently).

“It is unknown whether there might be some particular diet or exercise which can help relocate fat, ” Dr Qi told the BBC. “Our group is working on this question and hopefully we can have an answer soon.”

In the meantime, Dr Qi advised following a healthy diet in general to give yourself the best chance of a healthy heart in the future.