Too good to be true: chubby thighs better for heart health?


It was almost enough to force me right out the door to the nearest Tim Hortons for a couple of gooey Maple Dips. Must make sure that my thighs don’t get too skinny, because Danish researchers have just announced that chubby thighs can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.  

According to the study’s lead author:

“A small thigh circumference was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases and total mortality in both men and women. A threshold effect for thigh circumference was evident, with greatly increased risk of premature death below around 60 cm.

“These findings were independent of abdominal and general obesity, lifestyle, and cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and lipid concentration.”

Their explanation: lower muscle mass in the lower body and in the legs has been linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Some studies have reported that insulin resistance may be provoked in the leg muscle, and that low levels of subcutaneous fat in the thighs leads to adverse glucose and lipid metabolism.

But some researchers are not convinced.

Dr. Douglas P. Zipes, past president of the American College of Cardiology, warns:

“Waist circumference and its possible relationship to metabolic syndrome and diabetes made sense as a risk factor. This does not.

“I would have predicted fat thighs to be a cardiovascular risk because of a relationship to obesity. Further, some people are just big, and will have thick thighs, and others small. So I would be interested in the thigh sizes of some young – and tiny – women who are at low risk of cardiovascular disease.”

And Gary Schwitzer, the savvy health journalism watchdog, was even more blunt. He immediately wrote this letter to the editors of the British Medical Journal who published the Danish report.

“This is not a comment on the study, but on BMJ’s promotion of its publication, sent to journalists around the world.“It was misleading and erroneous.“The title of the news release: “Large thighs protect against heart disease and early death.”  The news release did not mention the limitations of such a study and did not mention the fact that association does not equal causation. *“So it is inaccurate and misleading to talk about “protection” from anything when you haven’t established a causal link.“Each day for the past 3.5 years, my Health News Review project has tried to help journalists understand how to better interpret science for their readers and viewers. Had a news story done what the BMJ did, we would have given it an unsatisfactory score.“Are your standards no higher?  You missed a chance to educate; indeed, you misled.

But I guess that BMJ got what it wanted: early this morning I counted more than 140 stories online that loved the ‘thick thighs protect hearts’ theme that you promoted – erroneously.”

food tims donut * “association does not equal causation”: this means (as I mention in Finally!  The Truth About What Causes Women’s Heart Attacks!):

“Depending on the parameters, methodology, and covert or overt  goals of researchers, studies can prove that right-handed married women who eat dill pickles every second Tuesday evening while doing yoga are more likely to have heart attacks than their pickle-hating southpaw single sisters.”

I think this also means no more Maple Dips for me. 

Find out more about the original findings reported in the British Medical Journal.


See also:

3 thoughts on “Too good to be true: chubby thighs better for heart health?

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably ISN’T. Thanks for the HEALTH NEWS REVIEW link here. I really enjoy browsing your website. THX.


  2. Too bad! Just once it would be nice to imagine that chubby thighs are actually good for us! We should have known that it made no sense. 🙂


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