All Fat Is Not Created Equal

Published Online: Saturday, October 1, 2005

Middle-aged women with extra fat in their legs, thighs, and hips do not face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For those with abdominal fat, it is a different story. Studies have shown that excess fat in the abdominal region can be bad for the heart. To investigate the differences, researchers measured fat levels in 95 postmenopausal women. Risk factors for CVD, such as unhealthy levels of fasting insulin and high levels of triglycerides, also were considered.

The results of the study indicated that excess fat by itself, without abdominal fat, appeared to have no negative effect on any CVD risk factors. Surprisingly, the study found that women with extra leg fat appeared to have lower levels of triglycerides in their blood. The finding suggested that leg fat may even protect women against heart disease.

Reporting in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (August 2005), the researchers explained that leg fat may be far enough away from the organs responsible for causing damage to the cardiovascular system. Also, leg fat may act as a "sink" or "trap" for triglycerides, keeping them out of circulation.

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