Hip fat mops up harmful fatty acids and contains an anti-inflammatory agent that stops arteries clogging, they say. Big behinds are preferable to extra fat around the waistline, which gives no such protection, the Oxford team said.
Science could look to deliberately increase hip fat, they told the International Journal of Obesity.
And in the future, doctors might prescribe ways to redistribute body fat to the hips to protect against cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
They said having too little fat around the hips can lead to serious metabolic problems, as occurs in Cushing’s syndrome.
Evidence shows that fat around the thighs and backside is harder to shift than fat around the waist.
Although this may sound undesirable, it is actually beneficial because when fat is broken down quickly it releases a lot of cytokines which trigger inflammation in the body, say experts.
These cytokines have been linked to cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes. The slower burning hip fat also makes more of the hormone adiponectin that protects the arteries and promotes better blood sugar control and fat burning.
In comparison, carrying excess fat around the stomach, being “apple shaped”, raises the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Lead researcher Dr Konstantinos Manolopoulos, of Oxford University, said: “It is shape that matters and where the fat gathers.
“Fat around the hips and thighs is good for you but around the tummy is bad.”
He said in an ideal world, the more fat around the thighs the better — as long as the tummy stays slim.
“Unfortunately, you tend not to get one without the other,” he said.
Fotini Rozakeas of the British Heart Foundation said: “This research helps us better to understand how fat acts in the body in order to develop new approaches in reducing heart and circulatory disease.
“If you are overweight, obese, or if you have a waist size that is increased, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet and doing regular physical activity, to reduce your risk of heart health problems.” — BBConline.
Left: Singer Jennifer Lopez has topped attractiveness polls with her curves.