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Issue 91: Too Much Junk in the Trunk?

Pear or apple?

These terms have been used for several years now to not only delineate one fruit from the other, but to also describe body shape. More recently, however, these descriptions have taken a turn and have morphed into phrases like, “too much junk in your trunk” (pear-shaped) or “jelly belly” (apple-shaped).

Regardless of how you refer to them, have you ever considered the health implications of being either a pear or an apple? If not, then it’s time to take a look at what body shape may be worse for your health.

Dr. Marie Savard in her book Apples & Pears: The Body Shape Solution to Weight Loss and Wellness says that health issues pretty much boil down to where we store excess fat. She suggests that excess fat stored mainly in the abdomen creates a negative hormone and chemical haven that can increase the risk of serious health consequences, while excess fat in the lower part of the body (the “trunk”) may prove not as dangerous to overall health.

Savard sums it up this way: “Apple-shaped women, who gain weight around their middle, are more likely to develop disorders like heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer. Pear-shaped women, who add pounds around their hips, buttocks and thighs, are more susceptible to problems like osteoporosis."

But how can you know if you are an apple or a pear? If looking in the mirror doesn’t clear this up, then grab your tape measure and check your waist-to-hip ratio or WHR.

To begin, just measure around the narrowest part of your waist to determine your waist circumference. Then measure around your hips--about three or four inches below your pelvis bone. Divide your waist circumference by your hip measurement to get your WHR. A WHR higher than 0.80 means you are apple-shaped. If your WHR is 0.8 or less, your body can be classified as pear-shaped.

The truth is that excess body fat is a health hazard, but even more threatening can be its distribution, with belly fat weighing in high as a risk for cardiovascular disease. In a study found in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that the fat deposited around organs (belly fat) and between muscles was directly connected to the amount of hard, calcified plaque present in the body.

And just in case you didn’t know, calcified plaque can pave the way to atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, and can lead to heart disease, the leading cause of death for American men and women. Additionally, those who are apple-shaped are also more likely to develop diabetes, since belly fat reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that helps maintain normal blood-sugar levels.

So whether you're a pear or an apple, the fact is that the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes can increase with every unhealthy inch added to a person’s midsection. Losing a few pounds is noteworthy, but losing a few inches from your waist may be even healthier.

Here’s to losing that jelly belly.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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