Plus Size model Ashley Graham. CREDIT: V magazine/Mario Sorrenti

IF you find yourself asking ‘does my bum look big in this’, don’t be too upset if the answer’s yes – because it could be good for your health.

Being pear-shaped can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, as long as you are otherwise still a healthy weight, a study has found.

Scientists said this is because the hips and thighs act as a ‘sponge’ and store up fat, stopping it from travelling to the heart and liver where it can cause these illnesses.

Hip and thigh fat is also better than carrying weight around your middle, as tummy fat is a different type of fat and releases potentially harmful chemicals into the blood.

While being pear-shaped lowered the disease risk in both men and women, the authors believe the protection is particularly evident in pre-menopausal women, who store more fat than men do on their hips and thighs.

This is believed to be why women see their risk of having a heart attack or a stroke rise rapidly after going through the menopause, when fat tends to be redistributed to their waists. But while being pear-shaped appears to have a protective effect for slim people, the study found it makes little difference for those who are overweight – because the fat levels in their organs are likely to be already too high.

Lead author Dr Norbert Stefan, an expert on diabetes from the University of Tübingen in southern Germany, said: ‘It is better for people of normal weight to be pear-shaped rather than apple-shaped, so that weight is carried on the bottom half of their body rather than around the middle.

‘The hips and thighs offer “safe storage” for fat, stopping it from getting into the blood and reaching the organs.’

Many thin people with a normal body mass index (BMI) believe they are healthy simply because they are not overweight.

But one in five are ‘metabolically unhealthy’ and suffer from high blood pressure, high blood sugar or high levels of fat in the blood. They can then be more than three times as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes – and can be more at risk than some obese people.

But the researchers, who looked at 981 people with a high risk of these conditions, found that those with bigger thighs and hips were less at risk.

This was based on MRI scans of fat distribution around the body and health checks.

Extra weight on your hips and thighs is known as subcutaneous fat, which means it sits under the skin and is simply a store of fat.

Dr Stefan said: ‘Fat in the hips and thighs is largely different from fat in the abdomen, which is called visceral fat. In pear-shaped people, these areas work like a sponge, with fat stored in fat cells where it cannot do much harm.’

Visceral fat, meanwhile, releases chemicals that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This type of fat also pumps out fatty acids into the blood and has been linked to high cholesterol and insulin resistance, a cause of diabetes.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, suggests putting on hip and leg fat could even be beneficial for some thin people who already have diabetes or heart problems.

Drugs called thiazolidinediones, which are already prescribed for those with type 2 diabetes, help redistribute visceral fat into subcutaneous fat as well as lowering insulin resistance.

v. [email protected]

© Daily Mail