Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK studied the genetic profiles of over 600,000 participants from several large UK and international studies on the specific genetics linked to this body shape and the potential mechanisms behind the increased risk and debunked the previously held research findings
According to the new research, people who are less likely to put on fat around their hips, due to their genetic pattern are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart attacks.
For the purpose of the study, they identified over 200 genetic variants that predispose people to a higher waist-to-hip ratio, a measure of the 'apple shaped' body.
They used the data to identify two specific groups of genetic variants that increased waist-to-hip ratio -- one exclusively via lower hip fat and the other exclusively via higher waist (abdominal) fat.
"We found that both of the genetic variants we identified were associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart attacks," said Claudia Langenberg from the University of Cambridge.
"The concept of an 'apple shaped' figure has been misunderstood for some time but our research considers how this body shape alters fat distribution in the body," Langenberg said.
Genetic study suggested that there is a greater proportion of people in the in the general population with subtle forms of familial partial lipodystrophy, a rare genetic disorder characterised by the inability to develop fat in the arms, legs and buttocks.
Those with this condition often go on to develop diabetes and its cardiovascular complications.
The team hopes that their findings will help to better understand the ways in which fat storage in different body compartments affects metabolic health and leads to disease.
The team also suggested their work could refine the way we detect and treat people at risk.