New research has found that a larger thigh circumferences, or ‘fatter thighs’ may be linked to lower blood pressure, and thus a reduced chance of developing heart disease among people who are overwight and obese.
To come to this conclusion, Dr. Zhen Yang from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine examined the data on thigh circumferences and blood pressure among 9,250 chinese men and women over the age of 40. Among them, 5,348 were overwight or obese, while 4,172 were within a normal weight range.
In the end, he found a significant link between larger thigh circumferences and a lower rate of high blood pressure in both women regardless of age, body mass index and weight. In particular, he noted this trend among women who had thighs of more than 54cm in circumference, and 55cm for men. Meanwhile, those with smaller thigh circumferences (under 50cm for women and 51 cm for men) were more likely to have higher blood pressure, and thus an elevated risk for developing heart disease.
To explain these findings, Dr. Yang explained, “In contrast to stomach fat, leg fat may be beneficial for metabolism. The most likely cause of this association is that there is more thigh muscle and/or fat deposited under the skin which secretes various beneficial substances that help keep blood pressure in a relatively stable range.”
Although further tests are needed to confirm the link, Dr. Yang and his colleagues are hopeful that they may be used as an inexpensive indicator for early detection of high blood pressure and related complications including cardioascular disease, in both overweight and obese individuals. However, due to differences in thigh circumference distribution across different ethnicities, these findings may be most useful for those of Chinese origin, meaning that further studies may need to be undertaken to see whether the link holds up for other ethnic groups.
To take his research further, Dr. Yang thus plans to measure body composition such as fat mass, muscle mass and bone mass in thighs, as well as thigh proteins. This comes as he suspects that different proportions of these constituents may shed further light on how the correlation between thigh circumference and blood pressure may be adapted to inform treatments in the future.