Sep 5, 2009 9:02 AM by JoNel Aleccia
At last, good news for anyone who ever despaired of fitting into skinny jeans: Thin thighs might actually kill you. Or at least put a strain on your heart.
That's the word from Danish researchers who studied more than 2,800 middle-aged people for up to a dozen years, only to find that those with the slimmest thighs had the highest chance of heart disease and premature death.
"There was up to a double risk for the people with the smallest thighs," said Dr. Berit L. Heitmann, a director of research at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. "It's quite substantial."
People whose thighs measured less than 60 centimeters, or about 23.6 inches in circumference, were in trouble. And those with stick-thin gams (less than 18 inches around) were at the greatest risk, according to new study in the online version of the British Medical Journal.
By that measure, supermodels everywhere would be in grave danger, while those who one fitness expert described as "normal-sized people," would be in the pink. "Typically a 23.6-inch thigh on a female would be a size 6 to 8," said Greg Benson, president of the International Sports and Fitness Trainers Association.
A woman with thighs that size might be 5-foot-1 and weigh about 135 pounds, a few inches shorter and a bit heavier than the reported measurements for singer Beyonce Knowles, who is known for her curves. A man with thighs like that might be 5-foot-7 and weigh 160, about the reported size of actor Tom Cruise.
Although the reasons for the increased risk of small thighs isn't clear, it's likely that those with smaller limbs lacked the muscle mass and lower body bulk necessary to ensure proper glucose and lipid metabolism, key factors for more serious disease, Heitmann said.
"It would seem that having too little muscle or fat in that region would be a problem," she added.
Typically, of course, it's the other end of the tape measure that signals trouble: People with too much junk in the trunk - and everywhere else - are usually obese and at risk for host of fat-related ailments.
But Heitmann's study, which was started in 1987 and followed patients through 2002, found that people with thinner thighs had a 50 percent to 100 percent higher chance of developing heart disease within a decade or dying by year 12 than their chunkier companions.
The results were similar for both sexes, and, surprisingly, the thigh measurement stayed the same, too, noted Heitmann.
She was quick to add, however, that the study should not be interpreted as a free pass for people who want to skip the gym.
In this case, much bigger was not better. The protective benefits of heftier thighs didn't rise when thighs grew larger than 60 centimeters.
"There's no further advantage there," Heitmann said.