The distribution of fat from one person to the next is somewhat heterogeneous, in that it changes from one person to the next- and in particular across genders. Whilst the actual causes of excess fat storage are best left for another article, what is important here is to analyse fat site ‘patterns’- where is excess fat being stored in the body, and what are the potential implications on health outcome and fat loss strategies?
Gynoid fat distribution
Gynoid fat ‘lay-down’ is characterized by the accumulation of excess fat around the hip, bum and thigh regions. Due to this type of distribution, those exhibiting excess gynoid fat patterns will portray a ‘pear’ shaped appearance where the bum and hips are much larger than the waist. This type of distribution is typical in females (the term gynoid relates to the female form). Gynoid fat is typically stored ‘subcutaneously’ which means that fat increases on the surface- under the skin and above the muscle.
Evidence suggests that gynoid fat distribution is controlled by female reproductive hormones such as estrogen, as they are stored in fat and provide nourishment for foetal development. A natural ‘hour glass’ figure is also good for attracting a potential mate, as males may well be hard-wired to find a female who exhibits the potential to effectively reproduce.
Interestingly, as the female reaches post-menopause, their potential to store fat around the hips and bum decreases and they become much more ‘android’ (see below) in their storage capacity (by as much as 42%). This of course makes sense if female reproductive hormones act as a guide for gynoid storage.
Although excess fat levels may lead to the client wishing to reduce them for aesthetic reasons, there is no real immediate health risk of obesity related diseases.
Android fat distribution
Android fat storage describes the distribution of fat mostly around the trunk/abdomen area (referred to as ‘central’ fat storage) or the upper body. Due to this type of distribution, those exhibiting excess android fat patterns will portray an ‘apple’ shaped appearance where the waist is much larger than the hips. This type of fat storage pattern is typical in males (and as already mentioned, post-menopausal females). The Greek prefix ‘andr’ of course refers to man.
Android fat is not stored subcutaneously to the levels that gynoid fat is, rather more ‘viscerally’- in and around the organs located in the peritoneal cavity (abdominal cavity). The consequence of this is that it can compress and restrict blood flow to the vital organs and can lead to issues such as insulin resistance due to the changes that occur in hormone profile. There is also a significant increase in risk of heart disease with excess android fat as well, as fat cells can ‘leak’ into the portal circulation via the peritoneal cavity.
Similar to gynoid fat distribution which is controlled by female reproductive hormones, android fat storage is controlled by the male reproductive hormone testosterone. Whilst higher levels of testosterone have been found to correlate well with lower central fat storage, low levels of testosterone have been found to correlate with higher levels of central fatty deposits.
How do you know if you are apple or pear shaped?
The simplest way to check this is to take a measurement of your waist circumference (taken as a horizontal measure where the tape passes around the waist at the height of the umbilicus/belly button) and one at the hips (classified as the widest point of the hips, usually through the mid-line of the bum) and complete a waist-hip ratio test. To do this divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement (W/H). Use an on-line calculator to assess your potential central fat risk factor and/or storage pattern. Additionally, any waist circumference > 102 cm (40 in.) in males and > 88 cm (35 in.) in females would be a risk factor for coronary-related illnesses.