In Praise of Thunder Thighs
All my life I've bemoaned the (large) size of my thighs. But new research has given me reason to appreciate my big legs: According to a study published last week in the on-line journal bmj.com, men and women with small thighs face a higher risk of having heart disease and of dying prematurely.
The Danish study followed nearly 3,000 people, roughly half men and half women, for 12.5 years after measurements of their thighs, hips, waists, height, weight, blood pressure and body-fat composition were taken.
After controlling for other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and overall body fat, the researchers found that having larger thighs was associated with less likelihood of succumbing to cardiovascular disease or death. The protective effect of bigger thighs only extended so far, though: thighs measuring more than about 24 inches around (60 centimeters in the study) didn't correlate with better health.
Researchers expressed regret that they hadn't measured the fat-to-muscle makeup of participants' thighs, as they surmise that having larger thighs by virtue of having more muscle mass may have made the difference between good health outcomes and bad. (More muscle mass is thought to combat insulin resistance, thus warding off type 2 diabetes and, by extension, heart disease.)
Because the thigh-size/health relationship was even stronger than the relationship between waist circumference and health, the study's authors suggest that getting people to exercise their lower bodies and thus build more thigh muscle might make more health impact than getting them to shrink their middles.
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