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Hooray for huge thighs

September 4, 2009 |  6:00 am

Thighs3 We know having a large waistline is unhealthy. But big thighs, it appears, may protect against heart disease and premature death.

A study published on found that men and women whose thighs are less than 60 centimeters - 23.6 inches - have a higher risk of premature death and heart disease compared to those with thighs exceeding 60 cm. Having thighs that are even bigger than 60 cm, however, confers no added benefit. The study is the first to suggest that thigh size matters.

The researchers, from Copenhagen University Hospital, examined almost 3,000 people who were followed more than 12 years. The relationship between thigh size, heart disease and early death was found even after the scientists controlled for other factors, such as body fat, smoking and cholesterol levels. The study also found that cardiovascular death risk was more strongly related to thigh circumference than to waist circumference.

It seems logical that large thighs signal a higher fat content, which would be bad for cardiovascular health. So why are slender thighs worse? The authors suggest that small thighs could mean there is too little muscle mass in the region. The presence of muscle tissue influences insulin resistance and other cardiovascular risks.

The authors recommend more emphasis on lower-body workouts to strengthen legs.

". . .Behaviors to selectively reduce waist circumference are generally unknown," they wrote. "Thigh muscle mass, on the other hand, can be selectively increased by lower body physical activity."

However, an editorial accompanying the paper calls for more research before everyone grabs a tape measure. Future studies should assess whether efforts to increase thigh muscle mass through additional leg exercises cuts cardiovascular risk more than would be expected.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times