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Muffin Tops Are Good for Women’s Bones: Study

Update Date: Apr 15, 2013 01:45 PM EDT

Being a bit round around the middle has not been considered to be a good thing for women or for men for a long time. However, a recent study found that there might be a medical benefit for women to have a little something extra around the waist. Researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the University of New South Wales and the University of Notre Dame in Australia have found that a muffin top had a protective effect on women's bones. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for men's beer bellies.

The study was conducted with 1,126 participants, 360 men and 766 women. All were 50 years or older, though the average participant was 71 years old, and they were all tracked for an average of five years. During the time that they were surveyed, 19 men broke bones, as well as 107 women.

However, being a bit chubby around the middle had protective effects for women against fractures. Each additional kilogram of abdominal fat was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of fracture, even when adjusting for various factors, like age, falls and previous fractures. According to the Daily Mail, the 25 percent of women with the largest middles were 40 percent less likely to suffer from fractures than the women with the trimmest waists.

Men could not report the same benefit from a rounder middle. That may be because researchers believe that the answer lies in the sex hormone estrogen, which has been found to be good for the bones. Women who store their fat around the middle tend to have higher levels of the hormone. Other possible explanations include that the extra force that fat places on bones strengthens them, and that they can provide padding if an individual falls. Researchers believe that the link between decreased fractures and increased waistlines is important, particularly because, as the obesity epidemic has increased, fracture rates have decreased.

This study is not the first one to show a benefit from a little extra padding; a recent study found that slightly overweight people were less likely to die prematurely than average-weight or obese people. However, researchers still do not recommend gaining weight around the middle; that has been shown to hurt the heart and kidneys.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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