The thigh's the limit …
PEOPLE with thick thighs have a lower risk of premature death and heart disease, researchers said yesterday.
A study found that those whose thighs measured around 23.6in (60cm) in circumference were less likely to develop heart problems or die early.
Researcher Professor Berit Heitmann said thigh size could be used by GPs as "an early marker to identify patients at later risk of cardiovascular disease and early mortality".
The findings, based on a 12-year study of almost 3,000 men and women in Denmark, will be a boost for large-thighed sportsmen such as cyclist Chris Hoy.
His thighs are said to measure 27in (68.6cm) – four inches bigger than Victoria Beckham's waist measurement.
The new research, published online in the British Medical Journal, focussed on the lives of 1,463 men and 1,380 women who had their thighs measured in 1987-8.
Body fat and other high-risk factors such as smoking and high cholesterol were taken into account by the study.
They were then followed up ten years later to check the incidence of heart disease, and 12.5 years later to study the number of deaths.
A total of 257 men and 155 women died, 263 men and 140 women suffered cardiovascular disease, and 103 men and 34 women suffered from heart disease.
The researchers found that the survivors had broader thigh circumference levels. Risks decreased up to a measurement of 60cm, but there was no added protective effect for people with thighs larger than this.
Prof Heitmann, director of the research unit for dietary studies at Copenhagen University Hospital, said the adverse effects of small thighs might be related to too little muscle mass in the region. This may lead to low insulin sensitivity and Type 2 diabetes – which in the long-term can cause heart disease.
But Prof Heitman said muscle mass was something which could be increased by lower body physical activity.
"A small thigh circumference was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases and total mortality in both men and women," he said.
"A threshold effect for thigh circumference was evident, with greatly increased risk of premature death below around 60cm."
He added: "The fact that more than half of the men and women aged 35-65 have thigh circumference below the threshold is worrying."
Judy O'Sullivan, British Heart Foundation (BHF) senior cardiac nurse, said: "There is insufficient evidence to confirm that a low thigh circumference affects a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
"However, low muscle mass is associated with low levels of physical activity which is an established risk factor for developing heart disease.
"Rather than focusing on the size of their thighs, adults should aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to help keep their heart healthy."
Dr Ian Scott, of Australia's Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, said if measuring a patient's thigh proved to be an effective way of identifying those at higher risk of heart disease and premature death, it would have "intriguing" public health implications.
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