The risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes was greater in people with fat deposits in the belly, muscles and liver, according to scientists at Harvard Medical School.
Having higher muscle and lean mass could act as a shield against cardiometabolic risk – the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke, they claimed.
A greater relative total body fat and thigh fat could also protect against the deadly conditions, they added.
Based on body shapes, men were more at risk of the conditions than women, it was revealed.
“Obese men have relatively higher visceral fat – fat within muscle cells and liver fat – which are all risk factors for cardiometabolic disease, compared to women with the same BMI [Body Mass Index],” said lead author of the research and radiologist, Dr Miriam Bredella.
“However, men have higher muscle and lean mass, which are protective for cardiometabolic health.
“Women have a higher relative amount of total body fat and higher superficial thigh fat, which is protective for cardiometabolic health.
“The detrimental fat depots deep in the belly, muscles and liver are more damaging for cardiometabolic health in women compared to men.”
The researchers compared 200 obese individuals’ body as part of the study – whether they had ‘pear-shaped’ or ‘apple-shaped’ body shapes.
In pear-shaped bodies, fat is distributed lower around the hips and thighs. While apple-shaped bodies have fat largely around the midsection.
Their BMI was compared after CT scans to determine body composition.
About one quarter of all UK adults are obese, the NHS said. Generally, a BMI score of between 18.5 and 24.9 means you’re a healthy weight, it added.
Cardiovascular disease causes 26 per cent of all deaths in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.
About 42,000 people under 75 dies from the condition in the UK every year.
Coronary heart disease – which occurs when arteries become narrowed by fatty deposits – is the leading cause of death globally.
There are 2.3 million people living with heart disease in the UK.