Correction: The original title for this article referenced a study. The Title has been changed to remove that reference. Additionally, changes have been made within the article to reflect facts more accurately.
There’s an energized focus on body awareness and acceptance these days. People are starting to become comfortable with various body types that differ from the modern beauty standards, and that’s a step in the right direction.
Over the ages, different body parts and types were fetishized, depending on the condition and priorities of the civilization.
It has been thought that larger hips and butts relative to someone’s waist may actually play a protective role when it comes to our health.
According to a 2010 review published by researchers at the University of Oxford and Churchill Hospital, gluteofemoral adipose tissue, which is fat that is distributed around the hips and thighs, can be protective.
More specifically, women with lower or more equal waist-to-hip ratios (WHR) were more resistant to certain chronic diseases than those with a higher WHR. (For more info on WHRs and how they work, check out this article.)
Where fats lies in the body, changes how the body reacts to it. Dr. Robert Kushner of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital explains that stomach fat isn’t healthy because it is more metabolically active.
It circulates hormones and messages throughout the body. Fat in the lower thighs, hips, and butt is more stable and contains fewer cytokines, which have been implicated in insulin resistance that leads to type II diabetes.
Does Butt and Thigh Fat Make You Smarter?
Not necessarily, however, a waist-to-hip ratio may be a useful proxy for predicting cognitive ability in women and their children. Why exactly? At this point it’s theoretical, but a possible answer is that more ‘junk-in-the-trunk’ also means more omega fatty acid storage, assuming your diet is adequate. As many know, omega fatty acids are paramount for neural development and the health of our brain and nervous system.
A 2007 review, describes the potential effect these stored omega fatty acids could have on not only your self but on the development of an infant in utero. They looked at teen mothers (whose own cognitive development would compete for resources with their unborn babies while they’re pregnant) and measured their waist-to-hip ratios. Of the mothers, whose waists and hips were about equal size had lower cognitive test scores than teen moms whose waists were much smaller than their hips. The researchers postulated that this was because upper body fat does not offer the same resources needed for cognitive development that gluteofemoral fat does.
The Other Side of the Coin
Not all health professionals are convinced that specific areas of fat deposition can either harm or protect, particularly when it comes to chronic disease. According to Floyd Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C, he says,
“I think that the article makes a fairly compelling point that there are likely differences between these two fat stores.”
“But I [also] think it certainly falls short in making a convincing argument that one is protective and the other is the major source of the problem.”
Newer evidence is also saying that there is no such thing as ‘good’ fat that protects us from chronic disease. According to the 2018 study, losing weight is a larger factor when it comes to promoting health, regardless of where it’s from in the body.
Peter Clifton, professor of nutrition at the University of South Australia in Adelaide and leader of this study had this to say,
“The bottom line is that any weight loss — regardless of whether it is fat or lean, backside, or abdomen — reduces cardiovascular risk factors […] For lowering cholesterol, losing leg fat is just as important as losing abdominal fat.”
The Bottom Line
There is no need to feel shameful of your body type. Where body fat lays may be protective, but the overall message is that healthy body weight is more important. We need to eat whole nourishing foods that also include omega fatty acids, stay active, and reduce stress when we can. This goes for our diets at any point in our lives, including pregnancy. It seems cliche, but when you break it all down, these are the things that seem to remain constant.
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