Two recent news stories have drawn attention to research suggesting that the location of subcutaneous and visceral fat deposists might be significant. Being “apple shaped” — carrying fat around the midriff — is associated with serious illness in post-menopausal women, but the picture for men might be more complicated.
In June, the European Heart Journal published a study of 2,683 post-menopausal women with normal body mass index (BMI) who had been recruited into a large study between 1993 and 1998 in the USA. Their health was monitored over the years, and an association was noticed between abdominal fat and cardiovascular disease (CVD). This association was stronger than that between CVD and whole-body fat or leg fat.
The study is available in full here: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/advance-article/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehz391/5524773
However, the picture might be quite different for men. Earlier in June, the journal Cancer published a study of 1,832 men living in Iceland over a period of up to 13 years. Increases in BMI and waist circumference were associated with significantly increased risk of prostate cancer, but the location of fat accumulation was associated with outcomes. Visceral fat in the abdomen correlated with increased risk of advanced prostate cancer, while subcutaneous fat in the thighs correlated with increased risk of fatal prostate cancer. To complicate matters further, the risks associated with visceral fat were only significant in men with lower BMI.
The abstract for this paper is available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cncr.32167