Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Friday, 3 June 2005 11:33 UK

Curvier women 'will live longer'

Catherine Zeta Jones
Catherine Zeta Jones is famed for her healthy figure

Curvy women are more likely to live longer than their slimmer counterparts, researchers have found.

Institute of Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen researchers found those with wider hips also appeared to be protected against heart conditions.

Women with a hip measurement smaller than 40 inches, or a size 14 would not have this protection, they said.

The researchers say hip fat contains a beneficial natural anti-inflammatory.

Narrow hips 'detrimental'

They said this anti-inflammatory, called adiponectin, prevents arteries swelling up and becoming blocked.

Fat on hips is different than fat on the abdomen
Dr Berit Heitmann, Institute of Preventative Medicine

Women ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren to Kelly Brook and Catherine Zeta Jones today have been made famous by their hourglass figures.

The Danish researchers examined almost 3,000 men and women aged between 35 and 65 from 1987 to 1988

They measured height, weight and body mass index - calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres.

They then looked at Danish health registers up until the end of 1998 to look at how many of the men and women had cardiovascular problems, and up to 2001 to see how many had died.

Compared to the group of women with the smallest hip circumferences, women with the biggest were found to have an 87% reduction in deaths.

They also had an 86% reduced risk of having coronary heart disease and a 46% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers.

Previous studies have found both men and women with small hips are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease.

However the study, which has been published in Obesity Research, found a wider hip circumference was not linked with better heart health in men.

'Apple-shape' risk

Professor Berit Heitmann, who led the study, said: "It seems that the protection is not a matter of wide hips, it's the detrimental effect of narrow hips with a lack of muscle fat, or bone or a combination of both.

She added: "Fat on hips is different than fat on the abdomen. If you do not have enough of this fat you may risk heart attacks."

Carrying excess fat around the stomach, being 'apple shaped', is already known to be potentially damaging to health.

Fat cells in this part of the body pump out chemicals that can damage the insulin system, raising the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Belinda Linden, of the British Heart Foundation said: "It has been widely reported that if you are apple-shaped, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease is likely to be greater than if you are pear-shaped.

"This study provides additional evidence of the association between hip circumference and cardiovascular protection among women."

But she added: "It is important to consider both your body weight and shape in tandem. Controlling both by eating less and being more active is the best way to reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease."

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