The terms ‘apple-shaped’ and ‘pear-shaped’ have been used loosely for decades but has become more popular in recent years as fad diets try to offer solutions for specific body types. The ‘apple’ and ‘pear’ concept can sometimes be confusing. It should not be confused with somatypes (body types) that characterizes adults into three categories – ectomorphs (thin and delicate), mesomorphs (muscular and stocky) and endomorphs (round and frumpy). ‘Apple’ and ‘pear’ shapes refers to a person who is overweight or obese and the configuration of the fat distribution. It it important to note though that endomorphs are more likely to gain weight and have a difficult time losing it, while endomorphs are at the other end and have great difficulty putting on the pounds.
Am I Apple or Pear Shaped?
Obesity is a growing problem globally and a well established epidemic in developed nations. The apple and pear shaped concept is not new – it describes the fat distribution in a person who is overweight or obese. It is also known as the android (apple) or gynoid (pear) type of fat distribution. Previously it was believed that overweight and obese men were always apple-shaped where as overweight or obese women are only pear-shaped. This was supposedly due to the difference in the predominant sex hormones among the genders – androgens in men and estrogen in women. It is now known that women can be either apple or pear shaped. Sometimes a third shape is proposed known as the ‘banana’ shape which is a straight figure without the curves that are typically associated with the female form.
Apple-shaped women gain weight around the middle – abdominal obesity – giving a round appearance somewhat like an apple. These women are more likely to have large amounts of fat around the waist and abdomen that lies deep in the body and is known as visceral fat. Although an apple-shaped woman will always be this type, she can lose weight and attain a normal BMI (body mass index) and thereby reduce the dangers associated with weight gain.
Pear-shaped women on the other hand tend to gain weight lower down – lower abdomen, hips, buttocks and thighs. The fat storage is just under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and this storage form is typically associated with pregnancy and for breastfeeding. Pear-shaped women are the typical example of the old addage – “everything I eat goes to my hips”. As with the apple-shape, pear-shaped women can lose weight and attain a healthy BMI yet still remain a ‘pear’. Ultimately weight loss reduces the risks associated with this type of shape but will not change the inherent shape.
Health Dangers Associated with Apple and Pear Shapes
There is a misconception that certain body shapes will suffer with only specific diseases. This is untrue. However, women of a certain body shape of more likely to develop certain diseases but this does not exclude the likelihood of other conditions that are common in overweight or obese people.
Appled-shaped women are more likely to be risk of developing the following conditions :
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes)
- Hyperlipidemia (high blood fats)
- Heart attacks
Pear-shaped women are more likely to develop :
- Varicose veins
- Urinary problems in menopause
A recent study has indicated that pear-shaped women may be just at risk for developing the diseases thought to be more likely to occur in apple-shaped women. This is associated with obesity, irrespective of the fat distribution.