Carrying more weight around the thighs appears to be linked with lower blood pressure and possibly a lower risk of heart disease among people who are obese or overweight, according to new Chinese research.
Carried out by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and Fudan University, Shanghai, the new study looked at a group of 9,250 Chinese men and women aged 40 or older, of whom 5,348 were overweight and obese, and 4,172 were normal weight.
Each of the participants had their thigh circumference measured, with the measurement taken directly below the gluteal fold of the thigh. The participants’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels were also recorded.
The findings, published in Endocrine Connections, showed that having a larger thigh circumference, defined as more than 55cm in men and more than 54cm in women, was significantly associated with having lower blood pressure. On the other hand, those who had a small thigh circumference, which was less than 50cm for women and 51cm for men, were more likely to have high blood pressure.
The results also held true even after the researchers had taken into account age, body mass index and waist circumference.
The researchers say that the findings suggest that carrying more weight on the thighs appears to be linked to better health among obese and overweight people, who have a greater risk of heart disease. It is already known that a large waist circumference is associated with higher blood pressure and a small thigh circumference is associated with diabetes. However, until now less has been known about the link between thigh circumference and high blood pressure.
“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,” said study author Dr. Zhen Yang.
Measuring thigh circumference could be an easy and low-cost way of detecting high blood pressure, say the researchers, which could in turn help reduce the risk of other health conditions such as heart disease if high blood pressure is treated early.
However, they add that due to large differences in thigh circumferences among different races and different physical activity groups, the thigh circumference definitions and sizes in this study may not be a reference point for other populations.