Biomarker for Figure Type: Weight Gain in the Abdomen or at the Hips?

Specific Metabolic Markers Are Associated with Future Waist-Gaining Phenotype in Women. PLoS One 2016

© Fotolia/Gina Sanders

All body fat is not equal. The ratio of waist circumference to hip circumference is a significant predictor of the risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. With regard to body fat distribution, scientists differentiate between the metabolically more dangerous apple-shaped figure type with visceral (abdominal) fat and fat in the organs and the more harmless pear-shaped figure type with fat around the hips (peripheral fat) and under the skin.

When individuals gain weight over the years, they show a greater increase in waist circumference compared to hip circumference. This phenomenon was observed by DZD scientists in collaboration with the Competence Network Obesity in 4,126 adults in the German population studies KORA1, EPIC-Potsdam2 and DEGS3. A blood test can determine whether someone will accumulate more abdominal fat than peripheral fat. In the analysis of the metabolome the researchers found 21 abnormal metabolites in women. According to the researchers’ conclusions, a low concentration of lecithin in the blood is associated with the figure type with increased accumulation of fat at the waist. Conversely, a high level of lecithin favors the deposit of fat at the hips, which has a significantly lower risk; these women had significantly fewer abnormal metabolites.

In men the results were less clear. This could also be due to the fact that when men gain weight, they tend to deposit fat at the waist. Therefore a metabolic comparison of fat deposits in the abdomen versus hips has less significance. Earlier studies by the DZD already showed sex-specific differences in the metabolic profile (LINK).

1 KORA Study (Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg in der Region Augsburg) of HMGU

2 EPIC-Potsdam (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) at DIfE

3 Study on the Health of Adults in Germany of the Robert Koch Institute

Original publicationMerz B, Nöthlings U, Wahl S, Haftenberger M, Schienkiewitz A, Adamski J, Suhre K, Wang-Sattler R, Grallert H, Thorand B, Pischon T, Bachlechner U, Floegel A, Peters A, Boeing H. Specific Metabolic Markers Are Associated with Future Waist-Gaining Phenotype in Women. PLoS One (2016). 11(6):e0157733.