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Study: Higher body fat in women safeguards against heart disease death

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren

 

Amid regular chatter about burning body fat, good news has emerged about the potential benefits of having it.

New research shows that higher rates of body fat in women may offer more protection against dying from heart disease.

The findings come from a recent UCLA study where researchers analyzed data from two studies. One set of data was focused on body composition and came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2004. Another data set came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2014 and focused on cardiovascular disease.

Researchers analyzed 11,463 people ages 20 and older. Then, the people were split into four body-composition groups: low muscle mass and low body fat, low muscle and high fat, high muscle and low fat, and high muscle and high fat. Researchers then tabulated the heart-disease-related death rates for each of those groups.

They found a 42% lower heart disease-related death rate in women with high muscle mass and high body fat compared to women with low muscle mass and low body fat. Yet women with a high muscle mass and low body fat did not appear to have a notable advantage over the women who had low muscle and high fat.

Meanwhile, men who had a high muscle mass and high body fat decreased their mortality risk by 26% compared to men who had low muscle mass and low body fat. Men with high muscle mass and low body fat decreased their mortality risk by 60%.

The study was published last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“This finding highlights the importance of muscle mass in healthy men and women for (cardiovascular disease, or CVD) risk prevention, while suggesting sexual dimorphism with respect to the CVD risk associated with fat mass,” the study authors, which included Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, Dr. Tamara Horwich, Dr. Marcella Calfon Press, Jeff Gornbein and Dr. Karol Watson, all of UCLA, said in the conclusion. They remarked on the different characteristics displayed in the study between the sexes.