Our propensity to be apple or pear-shaped is at least partly in our genes, a new study by an international team of researchers, including Cambridge and Oxford experts, has revealed.
Understanding why fat deposits in certain places in the body, especially for females, could lead to more effective diet pills that would help millions shed unwanted pounds from their bellies.
People with beer bellies, apple shaped bodies and muffin tops are at higher odds of diabetes and heart problems than those who are pear-shaped or bottom heavy.
After referring to previous research data and checking their findings against data from 29 studies involving more than 113,500 men and women, researchers pinpointed 14 genetic patterns associated with waist-to-hip ratio, 13 of which were new.
"By finding genes that have an important role in influencing fat distribution and the ways in which that differs between men and women, we hope to home in on the crucial underlying biological processes," The Daily Mail quoted Cecilia Lindgren at Oxford University as saying.
A second, linked, study, found 18 new genes that affect weight, taking the number of known obesity genes to 32.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said, 'We've known for some time that while fat anywhere in your body is not good for you, fat around the tummy increases your risk of heart disease and other illnesses more than fat around the bum.
"It is likely that several of these new genes will control the behaviour of fat cells," he said.
"This will need to be confirmed with further research but these findings are a good stepping stone towards how we might be able to offer new dietary advice or medicines to control the pattern of fat distribution in the future."
The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.