Booster Shots

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Apple or pear body type? Getting to the bottom of the issue

January 13, 2010 |  7:26 am

Obese Having a big butt, wide hips and full thighs is generally thought to come with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems, while having a high proportion of belly fat increases that risk. We know this, right?

Still, the findings keep coming. A study published today in the International Journal of Obesity isn’t objectionable – fat deposited on the butt and thighs is a good thing – but still it makes me cringe.

“[I]n day-to-day metabolism,” the study observed, “[gluteofemoral fat] appears to be more passive than the abdominal depot and it exerts its protective properties by long-term fatty acid storage.”

I don’t mind the explanation about the benefits of the pear shape over the apple shape. And I generally don’t argue with the Department of Health and Human Services, which says that women with waists measuring more than 35 inches are at greater risk of “weight-related health problems.”

I do, however, take issue with the disproportionate focus on women’s bodies in this debate. Too much commentary involves posting a photo of some well-endowed starlet’s rear end.

Such obsessing about female body shapes doesn’t seem necessary -- or necessarily healthy for women. Especially since the really bad belly fat is not the love handles that inevitably mushroom over a pair of jeans, but visceral fat -- fat on the inside of the body, close to the organs, invisible to the naked eye. 

-- Amina Khan

Photo credit: Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images