Healthy living * Weight loss

Apple-shape no worse for heart than pear-shape

obesity Obesity increases the risk of heart disease and cancer

Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, regardless of whether you are apple or pear shaped, a UK study has found.

Past studies have claimed that apple shaped people who carry more fat around their waist are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than pear shaped people, who carry more fat on their hips.

However, a new study suggests that general obesity is behind the increased risk, and being pear shaped does not lower the risk of heart disease.

In the study, an international team of scientists led by the University of Cambridge monitored the health of over 220,000 adults for almost a decade.

Unsurprisingly, the findings showed that obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. However, body mass index, waist measurement and body shape were no better at predicting who is most at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Regardless of how you measure it, being obese is bad for your heart. This study suggests that measuring your waist is no better than calculating your BMI but it’s not time to throw away the tape measure just yet.

“We tend to underestimate our body shape and size, so measuring our waist or checking our BMI are both quick and easy ways we can check our health at home.

“We should also remember there are other heart risk factors we need to think about too, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking."

Professor Stephen Holgate at the Medical Research Council, which part funded the study also said: “The main concern with obesity is that it leads on to other illnesses.

"Around three-fifths of type 2 diabetes and one-fifth of heart disease cases are attributable to excess body fat. Six cancers are also linked to obesity.

The percentage of UK adults who are obese has increased by 50 per cent in the last decade, and obesity in children continues to grow at an alarming rate.

MRC scientists have been working on obesity for more than two decades and by funding this kind of gold standard research, we hope to help arm doctors and patients with the best possible evidence to help prevent diagnose treat diseases associated with obesity.”

The findings are published online today in The Lancet.

This article was published on Fri 11 March 2011

Image © Celso Pupo -

Related Stories

Use this story

Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page