Dr Norbert Stefan, the study’s lead author, said: “It is better for people of normal weight to be pear-shaped rather than apple-shaped, so that weight is carried on the bottom half of their body rather than around the middle.”
“The hips and thighs offer ‘safe storage’ for fat, stopping it from getting into the blood and reaching the organs.”
Published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the study observed 981 people who were at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and found those with smaller hips and thighs were at greater risk.
“Fat in the hips and thighs is largely different from fat in the abdomen, called visceral fat. In pear-shaped people, these areas work like a sponge, with fat stored in fat cells where it cannot do much harm,” explained Dr Stefan.
An increasing body of research has shown that carrying fat around the midsection is associated with a higher risk of disease than if that same amount of fat is carried elsewhere. This recently prompted the Mayo Clinic to announce a new system of measuring body composition: the Body Volume Indicator (BVI), which is said to be more effective than the outdated BMI system as it takes into account abdominal volume.