Is being pear-shaped not so good after all?

Melissa Healy / Los Angeles Times /


Published Jan 24, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

If you’re pear-shaped and smug, a new study’s findings may take you down a peg: For those at slightly increased risk of developing diabetes, fat stored in the buttocks pumps out abnormal levels of two proteins associated with inflammation and insulin resistance.

The new research casts some doubt on a conventional wisdom: That when it comes to cardiovascular and diabetes risk, those of us who carry some excess fat in our hips, thighs and bottoms (“pear-shaped” people) are in far better shape than those who carry most of their excess weight around the middle (“apples”).

The new study, posted online this week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, focuses on a number of proteins: chemerin, resistin, visfatin and omentin-1, which could one day be used to distinguish between obese people headed for trouble and those whose obesity is less immediately dangerous.

The subjects in the study were all people with “nascent” metabolic syndrome — meaning patients who already have at least three risk factors for developing diabetes (large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high triglcerides, low HDL and high fasting blood sugar) but no cardiovascular disease or diabetes complications yet.

The researchers found these subjects’ “gluteal adipose tissue” — fat in and around the buttocks — pumped out unusually high levels of chemerin, a protein that has been linked to high blood pressure, elevated levels of C-reactive protein, triglycerides and insulin resistance, and low levels of good cholesterol.