We know fruits are good for us, but if your body shape resembles an apple or a pear, what does this mean for your health?

When we look at KPI’s for health, there are several we can monitor ourselves. There are plenty of Apps and technology, watches and online platform that allow you to keep track of your overall fitness and health. Some of these KPI’s include:

  • BMI (Body Mass Index) although not very reliable for people who have a high volume of (strength) training.
  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Blood Pressure (Systolic and Diastolic)
  • Weight
  • Urine color (to monitor hydration levels)
  • Wait to Hip ratio
  • Grip strength
  • Etc…

Another good indicator of health to see if you are at risk of several chronic diseases – including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and high blood pressure (to name a few) – is to look at your body shape. And more particularly if you have an apple or pear shaped body.

Having an apple shaped body means that you carry a higher proportion of fat around your abdomen, whereas a pear shape indicates you carry most of your fat around your legs and hips. (e.g. if you have a bit of a beer belly or a spare tyre around you, you’re more of an apple shape! If you are wider around the hips you are a pear shape.

Apple or Pear, which one is better?

In general being more pear-shaped means you are at lower risk to chronic disease than being an apple shape and this mainly has to do with your visceral and subcutaneous fat storage.

Visceral fat is the fat that sits deep in our abdomen and surrounds our organs. Subcutaneous fat is stored under our skins and is the fat that you can feel (for those who have followed the individual programme design, the skinfolds, which we measure these with the Harpenden Calipers)

The visceral fat is the most dangerous and it increases our risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, inflammation and other diseases.

 

Observational studies have shown that higher levels of visceral fat (and a larger waistline) are often associated with poor food choices (fried foods, alcohol, processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages, high simple carbs, etc… .

The good thing is that you can reduce the risk.

  • Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber helps protect against some chronic diseases.
  • In general, improving your nutrition including hydration will also reduce the risk of chronic diseases
  • Increasing your activity levels (and by this I don’t mean doing a straining workout every time, but it could be as simple as going for a 30-40 minute walk after lunch0.

You don’t have to do a total overhaul at once– just a small step at a time. Take one aspect you can improve… show consistency over a period of 3 week and then implement another habit.

What about those who are considered ‘Skinny fat’?

The term “skinny fat” is actually a popular term that describes a very real medical condition called sarcopenic obesity. This condition refers to an individual who may have what would be considered a normal/healthy weight, but metabolically, this person shares many health characteristics as someone who is overweight or obese. A person who is sarcopenic obese will have high fat mass and low muscle mass.

How to know if you are at risk?

Calipers

Skinfold measuring with calipers is probably one of the most common forms of body composition analysis. Calipers operate by pinching the fat that is held just under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and estimating the internal (or visceral) fat, which is where many skinny fat people hide their weight.

So, although this is probably the most accessible way to measure your body fat, it won’t be the most accurate because each test depends on the degree of skill of the administrator, Also, calipers only actually measure the subcutaneous fat and then use prediction equations or tables based upon your age to guess the visceral fat. As mentioned before, in induvial programme-design we do take caliper scores but only to monitor the values of the measurements over a period of time.

Clinical Tests

It is possible to have your body composition determined in a clinical setting using tests and procedures such as hydrostatic weighing and dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) or the InBody scan. However, these procedures both require specialized equipment. Although both of these tests are regarded as being highly accurate, because of the limited access, they may not be the easiest to access for regular testing to track changes in body composition.

Dexa scanner          InBody Scan

 

BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) Scales and Devices

BIA devices are devices that use small electric currents to measure body composition. These are the body composition results of someone who fits the skinny fat/sarcopenic obese body profile: In the individual programme design we now use such a device to monitor the values of athletes over time and to see how we can improve certain values with exercise, nutrition and hydration. It analyses your body composition and measures several things; your body fat and visceral fat, skeletal muscle mass, and distribution of muscle and fat, muscle quality, metabolic age, bone mass etc…

Author: Peter Koopmans