Wednesday, April 08, 2009
As we have mentioned a few times on this blog, it is well known that excess fat accumulation around the midsection (apple shape), in particular in the intra-abdominal or visceral depot, is particularly dangerous to your health. Also, we know that the specific loss of abdominal fat is closely related to improvements in metabolic status.
Conversely, many studies suggest that the accumulation of fat in the lower body (butt, hips, thighs), as in the classical pear shape, may actually protect against risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. An interesting question is whether the loss of lower-body fat could actually be related to a deterioration in metabolic status.
In a paper published last summer in the journal Diabetologia, along with co-authors Dr. Jen Kuk and Dr. Robert Ross, I investigated this very question. Basically, we assessed the relationships between loss of body fat from specific regions of the body (i.e. abdominal versus lower-body) and changes in metabolic risk factors (blood sugar, blood fats, glucose tolerance, etc.) in response to 3 months of diet and/or exercise intervention among 107 overweight or obese men and women.
What did we find?
First, we were able to corroborate previous findings showing that while more abdominal fat was associated with greater metabolic risk, the reverse was true of excess lower body fat. That is, if everything else were equal (age, gender, abdominal fat amount, etc.) – the individual with more fat in the butt, hips and thighs would actually have a healthier metabolic profile.
However, we found that loss of fat from the lower body, just like loss of fat from the abdomen, is associated with improved metabolic status.
Thus, you don’t need to fret if you thought losing your pear-shape during weight loss might increase your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
While a detailed discussion of the physiological mechanisms mediating these findings is beyond the scope of this post, it is important to note that the extrapolation of cross-sectional findings (i.e. more thigh fat is good) does not always lend itself to the correct longitudinal interpretation (i.e. losing thigh fat is bad).
Nevertheless, if you are interested to read the paper, which I hope you are, you can do so in full here. If you do not have a subscription to the journal, please email me and I will be more than happy to provide you with an electronic copy.
On another note, if you enjoyed yesterday's post regarding the lack of evidence regarding HCG diets, you may be interested to read the animated discussion that has erupted in the comments section of that post - click here to read.
1.Physical Activity in the Treatment of Obesity Related Health Risk: Is Weight Loss the Optimal Target?
2. Sedentary Lifestyle and Excess Belly Fat Increases Erectile Dysfunction Risk
3. This Apple Does Not Keep the Doctor Away
Janiszewski, P., Kuk, J., & Ross, R. (2008). Is the reduction of lower-body subcutaneous adipose tissue associated with elevations in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease? Diabetologia, 51 (8), 1475-1482 DOI: 10.1007/s00125-008-1058-0
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