Leg fat may reduce high blood pressure risk: Study

The research team examined the rate of three types of high blood pressure in relation to the percentage of fat tissue in the legs of nearly 6,000 adults enrolled in the surveys.

By   |  Published: 11th Sep 2020  8:05 pm

New York: Adults with fatter legs — meaning they have a higher percentage of total body fat tissue in their legs — were less likely than those with a lower percentage to have high blood pressure, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin.

“Although we know confidently that fat around your waist is detrimental to health, the same cannot be said for leg fat,” said study author Aayush Visaria from the Rutgers University in the US.

“If you have fat around your legs, it is more than likely not a bad thing and may even be protecting you from hypertension, according to our findings,” Visaria added.

The research team examined the rate of three types of high blood pressure in relation to the percentage of fat tissue in the legs of nearly 6,000 adults enrolled in the surveys.

Average age of the participants was 37, nearly half were female and 24 per cent had high blood pressure, defined as blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg.

Special X-ray scans measured fat tissue in the legs, and these measures were compared to overall body fat tissue.

The researchers classified participants as having either a high or low percentage of leg fat, with high fat defined as 34 per cent or more for males, and 39 per cent or more for females.

Participants with higher percentages of leg fat were less likely than those with lower levels of fat to have all types of high blood pressure.

Compared to those with lower percentages of leg fat, participants with higher percentages of leg fat were 61 per cent less likely to have the type of high blood pressure where both numbers are elevated.

In addition, risk for participants with higher leg fat was 53 per cent lower for diastolic high blood pressure and 39 per cent lower for systolic high blood pressure.

After adjusting for various factors, such as age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, smoking, alcohol use, cholesterol levels and waist fat, the risk for high blood pressure was still lower among participants with higher percentages of leg fat, although not as low as before adjusting for these factors.

“If these results are confirmed by larger, more robust studies, and in studies using easily accessible measurement methods like thigh circumference, there is the potential to affect patient care,” Visaria said.

The study was scheduled to be presented at the the virtual American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2020 Scientific Sessions (September 10-13, 2020).