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Good news for people with thunder thighs (maybe)

Get out that tape measure (again).

This time, you’ll want to measure your thigh circumference.

A team of Dutch researchers has found that having thinner-than-average thighs — specifically, ones that measure less than 21.6 inches — is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and early death.

Sort of counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

Maybe not. The authors of the study, which appeared in Thursday’s issue of the British Medical Journal, suggest a possible explanation for their finding, one that has more to do with muscle than with fat: People with smaller thighs may have too little muscle, a factor that may predispose them to not being able to process insulin properly, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Having too little thigh muscle (and thus smaller thighs) may also be an indication that a person is not exercising — another risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Unfortunately, however, the study didn’t determine the fat-versus-muscle composition of the thighs of the 2,816 men and women (aged 35 to 65) who participated in the study.

Why would researchers trouble themselves with a study like this? Because they’re looking for more accurate ways of predicting individuals at risk of developing heart disease. Right now, doctors rely on such things as family and personal health history, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lifestyle habits (particularly smoking) and, maybe, waist circumference.

But don’t expect your doctor to start measuring your thighs anytime soon. First of all, this study has significant limitations. To begin with it’s an observational study, so it can’t prove cause-and-effect. Also, as an editorial that ran along with the study points out, the association between thigh circumference and heart disease could be a chance finding. Much more research would have to be done before thigh measurements ever became part of standard clinical practice.

A postscript for all you MinnPost readers with exceptionally well-endowed thunder thighs: Alas, the study found no increased health benefit from having thighs larger than 23.6 inches.

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