A Pear-Shaped Body – Not a Safety Net!

March 29, 2011 in Diabetes, Health, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

What a disappointment to lose that emotional safety net!  Some of us who tend toward that shape are well aware that we have some extra pounds. Brushing that knowledge aside, we may have been de-motivated to do much about those pounds, because we have heard that there is less risk if we carry them more on the hips (pear-shape) than on the central abdomen (apple-shape). Previous research has shown a slightly smaller risk of cardiovascular disease from fat that layers itself on the hips than around the belly; this reassuring myth appears to have just evaporated before our very eyes.

On March 11, 2011, the distinguished journal Lancet published the results of a study that evaluated the records of 58 cohorts involving 221,934 individuals in 17 countries. Essentially what they discovered was that being overweight, regardless of your shape makes you a prime target for heart disease. What does matter is whether or not you have high blood pressure, a history of diabetes, or extra lipids (fats in the blood, bad cholesterol, triglycerides). These are the measures for each of us to worry about; and do something to get the measures under control.  After they have been taken into account, the researchers writing in the Lancet journal found no greater cardiovascular risk for the ‘apple-shaped,’ than for a ‘pear-shaped’ body. They didn’t find that Body Mass Index added any value to the prediction either. The researchers followed the persons in the study for heart attacks and strokes and found that neither the apple, nor the pear-shapes added anything to the prediction of cardiovascular risk beyond knowing about the blood pressure, diabetes, and lipids. Before you go ahead with that donut or burger, do realize that they did find a strong relationship with blood pressure, diabetes and lipids (fats in the blood) all affected by overweight and obesity. Basically, what they found was that size really does matter, but where you carry the excess doesn’t.

So the take-away message is that we can’t take one secondary piece of information, like being pear-shaped instead of apple-shaped, whether we are male or female, and use it as an excuse to neglect the wise management of our life-style and weight. Much more important is knowing whether or not we do have high blood pressure, knowing that we have allowed ourselves to get into the metabolic syndrome and developed diabetes, knowing that our triglycerides and cholesterol are not in the healthy range.  Once we know those things, which our doctor has probably already told us (or easily will after a blood test), we cannot take comfort in something secondary like where the fat tends to pile up most on our particular body.

I have tried in these blogs, and with the recipes and suggestions in the rest of this web site, to offer practical suggestions for becoming master of ourselves, both when we have these risk factors, and before we develop them.  It is a lifestyle issue. Let us shake off the excuses and the illusions, (such as the comforting pear-shaped idea). We have developed this company to try to help; it has been a labor of love.  We are eager to see others gain the joy of healthy living that we have found.

Tomorrow I'll publish a new Mediterranean-style colorful salad - yum!