Are YOU apple shaped? Beware! Study reveals body shape – not dress size – determines your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Being ‘pear’ shaped like Kate Winslet and Mad Men star Christina Hendricks means you are less likely to develop heart disease or diabetes, according to new research.
But a study of more than 430,000 people found those who were ‘apples’ – rounder around the middle – had a much higher risk of suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Apples were also more at risk of insulin intolerance, making it harder for their bodies to process sugar.
The findings, published in the journal JAMA, could prompt a new screening method for life-threatening illnesses: screening one’s waist-to-hip ratio to assess their risk.
Pears have well defined waists but generous hips and bottoms.
For years, that shape of figure has been associated with better health.
Now, for the first time, scientists have uncovered a causal relationship between ‘apple’-types and coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity.
Unlike the fat that pads out pear-shapes, scientists say belly fat wraps around the body’s vital organs.
It produces hormones and other chemicals that tamper with blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels which are controlled by insulin.
As a result it raises the risk of a host of health problems including heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
Obesity, typically defined on the basis of body mass index (BMI), is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes and CHD.
But, for any given BMI, body fat distribution can vary substantially. Some individuals store proportionally more fat around their visceral organs (apples)) than on their thighs and hips.
It has been associated with type 2 diabetes and CHD only in observational studies – until now.
The researchers found people who were genetically predisposed to be apple shaped were more at risk for type 2 diabetes and CHD.
Dr Sekar Kathiresan, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said: ‘These results permit several conclusions.
‘First, these findings lend human genetic support to previous observations associating abdominal adiposity with cardiometabolic disease.
‘Second, these results suggest that body fat distribution, beyond simple measurement of BMI, could explain part of the variation in risk of type 2 diabetes and CHD noted across individuals and subpopulations.
‘Third, waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for BMI might prove useful as a biomarker for the development of therapies to prevent type 2 diabetes and CHD.’
The finding was based on a combined data set of results from four studies between 2007 to 2015 that mapped the complete DNA of 434,140 participants, which included 111,986 Britons from the UK Biobank.
The researchers found genetic predisposition to higher waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for BMI was associated with increased levels of bad cholesterol, insulin and glucose, along with higher blood pressure.