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Is losing fat from the hips and thighs bad for your health?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD

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.


Peter

Related Posts:
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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3 Response to "Is losing fat from the hips and thighs bad for your health?"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    I am losing Fat in Buttocks & thighs but not around the stomach and Iam not obese and don't want to lose that much.I am sedentary but still slowly losing weight what could it be?
    Since you are researching this, kindly help. It annoys me to lose weight, Funny isn't it?

    Posted on December 6, 2009 at 1:13 PM

     
  2. Anonymous Said,

    Its me again..the one who's not interested in losing weight.
    If its serious..tell me with a reply Here.
    Don't want to bother you though.
    Thanks.

    Posted on December 6, 2009 at 1:15 PM

     
  3. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @ Anonymous It is fairly uncommon to lose fat from one area of the body and not another. It is possible that the fat loss from one area may simply be more perceptible than loss from another. If you are slowly losing weight and you are sedentary, many other factors could be contributing to the weight loss - the most obvious of which is diet (reduction in caloric intake). Additionally, for women around menopause, there is a redistribution of body fat as estrogen levels start to fall - that redistribution results in a loss of lower body fat and an increase in belly fat. In essence, post menopause women start to look more like men in their fat distribution. If you are truly concerned, I would encourage you to discuss these issues with your family physician.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 at 10:41 AM

     

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

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The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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