Are you prone to using that infamous phrase, Does my bum look big in this? If you're normally dreading the answer, the reply Yes! may not be such a bad thing after all!

According to new research, carrying extra weight on your bum, hips and thighs is good for your health--well, at least it's better than having a big tummy.

The researchers looked at a number of studies on the health benefits of lower body (gluteofemoral) fat, to find out why it is better than fat stored around the middle. The review was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

One of the researchers Dr Manolopoulos said:

The fat around our thighs and hips is different to the fat around tummies. The cells in lower body fat work differently from the cells in upper body fat, so celebrities like J-Lo can be said to be better role models for women's health than supermodels with much less lower body fat.

It's thought fat around the bum, hips and thighs breaks down more slowly than belly fat. This means it produces fewer inflammatory cytokines, which have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

So, it seems pear shapes are in! Think celebrity body shapes, such as Kirstin Davis' and Mariah Carey's.

A few points to remember:

Waist-to-Hip Ratio
A persons waist/hip ratio is a better predictor of heart disease than BMI. Here's how to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio:

Measure your waist around the narrowest point between the ribs and hips (measure after you've exhaled). Then measure your hips around the fullest part of your buttocks (heels together). Lastly, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

  • For women, a healthy waist-to-hip ratio is 0.86, or less.
  • For men, a healthy ratio is 0.95, or less.

(American College of Sports Medicine. (2006). ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
If you are overweight or obese, or if your waist size has increased, it's important to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Try to eat a healthy diet as much as possible, and make regular physical activity part of your daily life. These changes will go a long way to help reduce your overall risk of health problems.

As Dr Manolopoulos puts it, in an ideal world the more fat around the thighs the better - as long as the tummy stays slim. Unfortunately, most people tend not to get one without the other.