Thicker legs are better for blood flow.

New research has found that having more fat tissue in the legs makes people less likely to have high blood pressure. This sets leg fat apart from fat in other places on the human body.


“Although we know confidently that fat around your waist is detrimental to health, the same cannot be said for leg fat. If you have fat around your legs, it is more than likely not a bad thing and may even be protecting you from hypertension, according to our findings,” Aayush Visaria, principal investigator in the research, said in a press release. “If these results are confirmed by larger, more robust studies, and in studies using easily accessible measurement methods like thigh circumference, there is the potential to affect patient care.”

Leg fat has previously been overlooked, with waist fat getting significantly more attention.

“Just as waist circumference is used to estimate abdominal fat, thigh circumference may be a useful tool, although it’s a bit cumbersome and not as widely studied in the US population,” said Visaria.

Thicker legs are better for blood flow.

Thicker legs are better for blood flow. (iStock)

The findings are being presented at the American Heart Association‘s virtual meeting for hypertension research this week.

To reach this conclusion, researchers analyzed data on 6,000 adults enrolled in a 2011-16 national health survey. They looked at participants’ legs’ fat-tissue percentages in relation to three blood-pressure types and found that those with higher percentages of leg fat were less likely to have all types of high blood pressure.

This finding held true even when researchers adjusted their data for age, sex, race, ethnicity, education, smoking, alcohol use, cholesterol levels, waist fat and risk for high blood pressure.


That leg fat has health benefits adds to an ongoing conversation in the scientific community about the importance of fat’s location on the body, and understanding it in other terms beyond just quantity.

“Ultimately, what we noted in this study is a continued discussion of ‘It’s not just how much fat you have, but where the fat is located,’ ” said Visaria, who is a fourth-year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.