Most people are working hard to keep off fat, but new research published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that the more fat individuals have in their hips, thighs and hind area, known as gluteofemoral fat, the less likely they are to develop diabetes and heart disease later in life.

The research comes from investigators from the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism (OCDEM) at the University of Oxford. The researchers reviewed published scientific studies on the health effects of storing body fat. They found that having body fat in the thighs and backside can help protect against heart disease and diabete.

The fat around our thighs and hips is different than the fat we accumulate around our belly. Previous studies have shown that belly or abdominal fat raises the risk of heart disease by increasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and is also an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

There is "good" fat and "bad" fat--just like there is good and bad cholesterol, the researchers explain.

In their research, the scientists found that abdominal fat and thigh fat release different levels of hormones. Abdominal fat releases a stream of inflammatory proteins called cytokines that have been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Furthermore, researchers say that abdominal fat tends to lead to more fatty acids floating around the body where they can get deposited into organs and cause harm.

Thigh fat on the other hand traps the fatty acids long term, so they can't get deposited throughout the body. In addition, researchers say that conditions characterized by the reduction of lower body fat, such as Cushing's syndrome, are associated with serious metabolic problems and cardiovascular risk.

Lead researcher Konstantinos Manolopoulos of the University of Oxford says that thigh fat might also secrete more beneficial hormones like leptin and adiponectin, although this is unclear at the moment.

Does this mean you should kick up your feet on the couch and start eating potato chips and ice cream? According to Manopoulous, control of body weight is still the best way to stay healthy, and the advice remains the same: it is important to eat less and exercise more.

For this reason, consider these three tips to control your body weight.

3 Tips to Control Body Fat

Get regular exercise. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of at least moderate physical activity 5 days a week. Walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming are excellent choices.

Reduce your calorie intake. The amount of calories you consume plays a big role in controlling your weight. Try skipping one high-calorie indulgence a day. For example, cut out that bowl of ice cream you eat while watching TV and replace it with a nighttime tea.

Eat healthy foods. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also emphasize plant sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, and soy. For other sources of protein, choose lean meats and seafood.

Note: While the report suggests that lower body fat may protect against heart disease and diabetes, the best way to prevent these diseases is through proper exercise and diet.


Fat Butt? It May Be Healthier Than you Think. Jan. 12, 2010. Accessed Feb. 19, 2010.

Manalopoulous, K.N., Karpe, F., Frayne, K.N. Gluteofemoral body fat as a determinant of metabolic health. International Journal of Obesity, January 12, 2010. Accessed Feb. 19, 2010.

Pear Shaped Body Can Protect Against Heart Disease. Tsi-Si News Service. January 17, 2010. Accessed Feb. 19, 2010.

Warner, J. Having Fat in Thighs and Backside May Protect Against Diabetes, Heart Disease. WebMD. Jan. 14, 2010. Accessed Feb. 19, 2010.