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Pear-shaped vs apple-shaped bodies

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Callie Jones“Apple-shaped” people — those with fat concentrated around the abdomen — have long been thought to be more at risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes than the “pear-shaped” — those carrying weight more in the hips, buttocks and thighs.

But research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that the protective benefits of a pear shape may be more myth than reality.

This study — conducted in 45 people with early metabolic syndrome and 30 healthy controls — found that fat stored in the buttock area, also known as gluteal adipose tissue, secretes abnormal levels of chemerin and omentin-1, proteins that can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance in individuals who have early metabolic syndrome.

Chemerin levels were raised and omentin-1 levels were decreased in both plasma and gluteal fat of subjects with metabolic syndrome compared with those in the control group.

The abnormal levels of these two proteins were independent of age, body mass index and waist circumference.

High chemerin levels correlated with markers of metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, elevated levels of C-reactive protein and triglycerides, insulin resistance, and low levels of HDL cholesterol. Low omentin-1 levels correlated with high levels of triglycerides and blood glucose and low levels of HDL cholesterol.

Fat in the abdomen has long been considered the most detrimental to health, and gluteal fat in the lower body was thought to protect against diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. But this new research suggests that gluteal fat may not be as innocent as was once thought.

It also suggests that abnormal levels of chemerin and omentin-1 may be an early indicator with an ability to identify those at risk of developing metabolic syndrome. In addition, as a marker of inflammation and insulin resistance, high levels of chemerin could help to define “high risk” obesity states and cardiovascular disease.

Weight loss remains an important way to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in all shapes of overweight and obese people. But weight loss also helps to reduce high levels of chemerin, which may provide part of the explanation as to why weight loss is linked with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

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