Over the years, in certain “high society” circles in places like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., I often heard women say, “you can never be too rich or too thin.”
I often felt like adding, “or too dumb.” And a new study confirms my sentiment.
In fact, according to new research from Oxford University and Churchill Hospital in the U.K., women who carry a little extra fat in their “derriere” have lower chronic disease risk AND increased intelligence.
The human body needs some fat
The study didn’t surprise me, as I often report on the health benefits of having a “rounder” figure. What passes as fashionable in the popular culture in recent decades looks more like malnutrition to me. You can’t starve the brain and nervous system and expect superior results. (Was that the whole point?)
Of course, fat distribution is also important. And fat deposits in different places behave differently metabolically.
Overall, belly fat is harmful because it’s more metabolically active, sending fatty contents and messages throughout the body. Belly fat also releases cytokines, which can lead to insulin resistance, thereby increasing Type II diabetes risk.
However, carrying some extra weight in other areas of the body has quite a different effect.
Curves signal good health in women
Fat in the thighs and backside actually supports good health. In fact, fat below the waist serves as a barrier against Type II diabetes, heart disease and other conditions linked to obesity. It’s also more stable and releases fewer harmful cytokines.
Having some fat below the waist also appears to benefit hormonal regulation of appetite and total body weight in women. And evidence links more fat below the waist with higher levels of omega-3 fats. These essential fats boost brain function, memory and mental abilities.
Last but not least, a mother with more fat in the lower body passes these health benefits to her children. In fact, studies show that children born to women with larger hips are more intelligent too, compared to those born to women with flatter physiques and less body fat.
Overall, starving the body and brain is not good for anyone. And being overly concerned with losing a little extra weight is bad for your physical and mental health.
Moderation in all things — including weight
Don’t forget: Not so long ago, and for thousands of years before, it was considered healthy and desirable to have some meat on your bones. It was just common sense that being underweight was “sickly.”
And decades ago, science linked being underweight with higher death rates — compared to the happy middle.
The evolution of society’s thoughts about “body image” has drastically altered what is considered a “normal” body weight, statistics aside.
Time and time again, common sense tells us what we need in order to be healthy and happy. It’s not some arbitrary formula. And it’s certainly not deprivation. It’s moderation.
Moderation in all things is the key to health and happiness. And happiness itself may be a key. Who can be happy while frozen in front of a mirror, obsessing about body image and pants size? Who can be happy when counting every calorie, day in and day out? Eating should be one of the most normative and enjoyable human behaviors. But we make it a struggle.
Living in constant calorie-cutting mode not only isn’t fun — it isn’t healthy. The best diets that work over the long term don’t focus on blindly cutting calories but on eating healthy foods, and cutting out unhealthy “foods” like sugars and carbs.
So strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle with moderate outdoor exercise and plenty of healthy meats, fatty fish such as salmon, olive oil, butter, and nuts. And stop worrying if you have a little extra “padding.” Science and history show that it may very well be one of your best assets.
“Gluteofemoral body fat as a determinant of metabolic health,” Int J Obes (Lond)2010 Jun;34(6):949-59