Remember all those dire warnings in the past few years about how it was better to be “pear-shaped” than “apple-shaped”? Well, forget the fruit references—they’re both bad for you.
Carrying weight around the middle (apple-shaped) might not be any worse than carrying the extra weight around your hips and thighs (pear-shaped), says a new study published in The Lancet. It’s as simple as this: being overweight—no matter where you store it—is equally bad for your heart and blood vessels.
It sounds obvious, but this research actually challenges years’ of popular thinking. You see, in 2005, the now-famous InterHeart study suggested that apple-shaped people were three times more likely to have a heart attack than people who carried their weight around the hips and thighs—or, compared to those who were just overweight in general.
But there was a problem with this work: The researchers from the 2005 study took their body measurements after the subjects had already suffered a heart attack, which led some researchers to worry that the results might be skewed.
So to see if apple-shaped people were really more at risk for a heart attack or stroke before they actually suffered one, an association of 200 scientists led by the University of Cambridge monitored more than 220,000 adults for nearly a decade. (They studied the subjects’ blood pressures, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides.)
The result: Out of the 14,000 participants who had a heart attack or stroke, there was no link between where they carried their weight and their risk of dying. In other words, it didn’t matter whether you were apple- or pear-shaped—people who were just overweight in general had the same risk.
“Excess fat levels remain one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke,” says co-study author Emanuele Di Angelantonio.
The good news: Unlike where you store your weight, staying lean is something you can control.