Thick Thighs Save Lives: Why Bigger Thighs Are Healthier (Seriously!)
“I don’t like my shape.”
“My thighs are too big.”
“I wish I had smaller legs to fit into cute jeans.”
Those are all real statements from women who were considered to have an larger than average thigh size. Some women reading this may be able to relate. But the medical fact of the matter is, thicker thighs can be healthy. For real.
To find out how thigh circumference affects health, Harvard Health reported that Danish scientists evaluated 2,816 men and women ages 35 to 65 who were free of heart disease, stroke, and cancer when they joined the study in the late ’80s. Each participant provided a detailed health history and each underwent comprehensive examinations that included measurements of height, weight, and thigh, hip, and waist circumferences, as well as body fat percentage, which was determined by the highly accurate impedance method.
Researchers tracked the volunteers for an average of 12.5 years. They found that people with big thighs had a lower risk of heart disease and premature death than those with thin thighs. In round numbers, a thigh circumference (measured where the thigh meets the butt) of about 62 cm (about 24.4 inches) was most protective; bigger thighs provided little if any extra benefit, but progressively thinner thighs were linked to progressively higher risks. The predictive value of thigh size held up even after the scientists accounted for other indicators of body composition, including waist circumference, BMI, height, and body fat percentage. And thigh size remained a strong independent predictor even after researchers adjusted for risk factors such as smoking, exercise, alcohol use, systolic blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and (for women) menopause.
It’s only one study, but its results are still impressive because the scientists measured thigh size but not thigh composition. They didn’t tell if the apparent protection of big thighs is due to more muscle, more fat, or both. Well, not yet.
But that’s where your muscle to fat ratio comes in.
It’s a fact that, fat cells in the lower part of the body seem to vacuum up harmful fatty acids that are released into the blood when fat-laden foods are digested. Fat cells in the upper body also store up free fatty acids, but are quick to pour them back into the blood in response to stress-induced surges of adrenaline. And abdominal fat cells (around your midsection) produce larger amounts of cytokines, chemicals that trigger harmful inflammation, while lower-body fat cells produce productive chemicals, including leptin and adiponectin.
During an average follow-up period of six years, two factors emerged as the strongest predictors of mortality. Large waist circumference, reflecting abdominal obesity, was linked to a high death rate (big fat belly = bad), but large mid-arm muscle circumferences predicted a reduced death rate (bigger arm muscles = good). The results held up even after researchers took other risk factors into account.
The British study agrees with other investigations that show the stronger live longer. It’s not just having bigger thighs, but the amount of muscle in them as well. Many researchers conclude that part of the reason that remains true is…