For years, people have been warned that body shape is an important risk factor for a heart attack. That is, it’s not just being overweight that counts, but also where body fat tends to accumulate most on your body. So-called “apple-shaped” people who carry more weight around their waist were thought to be at greater risk of heart attack than “pear-shaped” people who are thinner through the middle but carry weight in their hips. What has been the reigning conventional wisdom is now being completely reexamined. A new study suggests that where body fat accumulates most doesn’t matter – that apples and pears are at equal, elevated risk from being overweight.
The study, published in March 2011 in the medical journal The Lancet, also found that weight on its own does not indicate much about heart attack risk: the key indicators are cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, family history and other risk factors. This does not mean that weight is not important for cardiovascular health. Excess weight contributes strongly to the critical risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Why the conflicting findings from previous studies? The study’s authors attribute the new findings to the fact that the study is a prospective one, meaning that it analyzed data on health indicators for people moving forward in time, rather than starting with people who had already had heart attacks and then working backward to gather data.
So now women can stop worrying about which fruit shape they are and put fruit back where it belongs: in a nutritional diet that will encourage achieving and maintaining a heart-healthy weight.