Having fat legs more than halves the risk of high blood pressure, according to new research.
A study of almost 6,000 under 60s found those with ‘thunder-thighs” were 61 per cent less prone. The condition can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
It adds to evidence that being ‘pear-shaped’ – like Kate Winslet, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez – is good for health.
Principal investigator Aayush Visaria, of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said: “Ultimately, what we noted in this study is a continued discussion of ‘it’s not just how much fat you have, but where the fat is located.’
“Although we know confidently fat around your waist is detrimental to health, the same cannot be said for leg fat.
“If you have fat around your legs, it is more than likely not a bad thing and may even be protecting you from hypertension, according to our findings.”
Storing fat there is thought to be safer than around the waist – ‘apple shapes’ – from where it is likelier to end up in organs.
Mr Visaria, a fourth year medical student, said participants with a higher percentage of total body fat tissue in their legs were much less likely to have hypertension.
It affects more than a quarter of adults in the UK, around 13 million. It may lead to a clot, cutting off blood supply to the heart or brain.
The study presented at a virtual American Heart Association meeting examined the link between three types of the condition and leg fat readings.
Those who fell into the ‘high percentage’ group more were much less likely to have any form than peers with lower levels.
The US participants’ average age was 37, nearly half were female and one-in-four (24%) had high blood pressure – defined as 130/80 mm Hg (millimetres of mercury).
The top number applies to the ‘systolic’ pressure in the arteries when your heart is beating. The bottom refers to the ‘diastolic’ pressure between beats.
Those with fatter legs were 61, 39 and 53 per cent less likely to have either both, the first or second elevated, respectively.
Special X-ray scans measured fat tissue in the legs which was compared to overall amounts in the body.
The US team classified volunteers as having either high or low quantities of leg fat – with the former at least 34 and 39 percent for males and females, respectively.
Risk remained significantly lower even after age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, smoking, alcohol use, cholesterol levels and waist fat was taken into account.
Mr Visaria said: “If these results are confirmed by larger, more robust studies, and in studies using easily accessible measurement methods like thigh circumference, there is the potential to affect patient care.
“Just as waist circumference is used to estimate abdominal fat, thigh circumference may be a useful tool, although it is a bit cumbersome and not as widely studied in the US population.”
Earlier this year a study of over 9,000 older men and women in China came up with similar results.
Having a larger thigh circumference of more than 55cm (21.7in) in men and 54cm (21.3) in women significantly reduced hypertension risk.
This was consistent in both men and women and was independent of age, body mass index and waist circumference.
Meanwhile, those with a small thigh circumference of less than 51cm (20in) for men and 50cm (19.7) for women, were more likely to have high blood pressure.
The Chinese team said doctors should start measuring the thighs of overweight and obese patients.
It is easy, cheap and has previously been shown to be effective for other diseases.
A small thigh circumference has been linked to diabetes.
Last year a study found an apple shaped figure can more than triple a woman’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Famous apple-shaped celebrities – with waists wider than their hips – include Elizabeth Hurley, Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta Jones, Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks.