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Body Shape - Types and Shapes
Health and Weight Effects of Being Apple-Shaped and Pear-Shaped
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Body Shape - Apple Body Shape - Body Image - Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Waist Hip Ratio - Weight Categories - Weight Related Risk Factors - Weight Health Risk Assessment

Different Body Types: Apple Shape, Pear Shape, Ectomorph, Mesomorph & Endomorph

Body Shape

Why Body Shape is Important

We all know that being overweight, obese or carrying excess body fat is bad for our health. But total body fat is not the only health risk - body fat distribution is also significant. This is why body shape is important.

Body Shapes & Types

As far as fat distribution is concerned, there are two basic body shapes - "apples" and "pears". Apple-shaped people carry most of their excess body fat around their middle (abdomen), while pear-shapes carry most of their excess body weight on their hips and thighs.

Apple Shape Body Type

Apple-shaped people store body fat around the abdomen and chest, surrounding internal organs, such as the heart. For this reason, apple shapes have a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease. That said, "Apples" have an easier time losing excessive fat that has settled in the midsection - which helps to reduce their increased health risk.

Pear Shape Body Type

Pear-shaped people have hips wider than their shoulders because their bodies store fat there and on the thighs. Pear-shapes carry their extra weight below the waistline, and do not seem to have as high a risk of developing the above conditions as "apples" do. Pear shape people usually lose fat in the upper body, so their overall shape doesn't change much when they lose weight.

Apple Body Shape vs. Pear Body Shape Summary

When you compare an apple to a pear shape with a similar body weight, the risk for disease is much greater in the apple. But when apples lose weight, they reduce fat in the upper body, look different and reduce their risk of disease.

Body Shape and Weight Control

When Apples lose weight, they do reduce the fat in the upper body, so they look different (and reduce their risk of disease). Pears also tend to lose fat in the upper body, so even when they lose weight their overall shape does not change much. Pear shapes tend to find it difficult to lose fat from their main fat stores on the lower half of their body.

Are You an Apple or Pear Shape - Measure Your Waist-Hip Ratio

Use the Waist-to-Hip Ratio to see if you're a stick, a pear or an apple. The Waist-Hip Ratio is a measure of trunk fatness. It is a good indicator of weight as a risk factor for diseases such as heart disease. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is another measure for assessing overall weight and risk to health. The BMI measures total weight in relation to height.

Body Shape - Health Risks - Some Research Findings of Fat Distribution

  • It is healthier for children to be shaped like a pear than shaped like an apple.
  • Earlier studies indicated that pear-shaped adults have higher blood pressure and lower levels of the "good cholesterol" known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) than those with the apple shape.
  • But a study in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, found that with children and adolescents greater upper body fat was associated with higher levels of the blood fat, triglycerides, and lower HDL cholesterol.
  • In addition, systolic blood pressure - the upper number of a blood pressure reading - was highest in children with the most fat overall and in those who were apple-shaped.
  • Harvard University researchers found that women with waistlines of 38 inches or more had more than three times the risk of heart disease than those with waists of 28 inches or less.
  • The Harvard study found the magic number is .80 - in other words, a woman's waist size divided by her hip size should yield a number no greater than .80.

Intra-Abdominal Fat (IAF - Central Fat Distribution)

In some body fat studies, intra-abdominal fat (IAF) has been even more closely associated with Type 2 Diabetes (Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes - NIDD) than overall weight, and is closely associated with insulin resistance. IAF is also associated with increased risk of hormonal cancers (e.g. breast cancer), ovulatory dysfunction and sleep apnea.

Body Shape - Health Risks - Summary

  • Previous fat distribution studies have shown that men who are apple shape are at increased risk for developing heart disease. Taken with the newest findings about women, the apple body shape becomes a warning sign of possible heart disease for all adults.
  • But body shape is just one of the factors to be considered when assessing your risk for disease. Other issues to consider include family history, tobacco use, cholesterol levels and lifestyle.
  • If you are an apple-shape with a higher waist-hip ratio, consider taking dietary advice and modifying your eating habits. Also, talk to a fitness instructor about increasing your level of physical activity.
  • If you ar a pear with a healthy weight, focus on eating well, being active and feeling good about yourself. Respecting your body, the way it is, is a healthier alternative than dieting.

Body Shape - New DEXA Fat Distribution Measuring Technique

The relationship between body shape and cardiovascular risk factors has not been extensively studied in people, especially young people. Now a new way of measuring body fat distribution made such a study feasible.

  • The technique, called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), has been used extensively to check bone mineral density for osteoporosis. It can also determine body fat distribution more accurately than many of the indirect measuring methods previously used.
  • DEXA uses low-level X-rays to penetrate the body. The degree of that penetration is used to measure tissue density - whether of bones, as in osteoporosis, or fat.
    See also Body Fat Measurement Test

Body Shape - Another Classification of Body Types

Another method used to classify body shape, called somatotyping, rates a person's body on three factors: ectomorphy (slenderness), endomorphy (fatness) and mesomorphy (muscularity).

The three main types of body shapes under this classification are:

Ectomorph Body Shape

A person with this type of body shape is generally tall and thin with long arms and legs. These people have difficulty gaining weight and muscle no matter how much they eat or how hard they weight train.

They have the body type you tend to see in ballet dancers, runway models, long-distance runners, and some basketball players. A very small proportion of the population has this type of body.

Mesomorph Body Shape

A person with this type of body shape has a higher muscle-to-fat ratio than most and is generally shorter with stocky arms and legs. These people are strong and tend to gain muscle mass when they do strength training. They may find it difficult to lose weight, but they excel in power sports like soccer, softball, vaulting in gymnastics, sprinting events in track and field.

Endomorph Body Shape

A person with this type of body shape is generally shaped like apples or pears with a higher than average body-fat-percentage. Their bodies resist losing weight and body fat no matter how restrictive they are with their eating. In fact, the more they “diet,” the more their metabolisms slow down to resist weight loss. These people are better able to handle long periods of starvation and famine (which was a benefit to our ancestors). Sports they excel at are distance swimming, field events, and weight lifting.

If you don’t think you fit into any of these, don’t worry. Most of us are a combination of these body shapes. The important thing to know is that there are many body shapes/types, and all of these types are normal.

Sources include: Health Canada. UK National Health Service.

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