Thick Thighs Save Lives, often shortened to TTSL, is a catch phrase that has been used in the body positivity movement. But is there any truth to the term? Do thick thighs really save lives?
The term was entered into Urban Dictionary in 2014 under its abbreviation TTSL. In 2016, it found its way to Tumblr through a webcomic where one character tells another that thick thighs save lives. Later that year a YouTube channel – SELF posted an interview with model Ashley Graham. It was titled “Thick Thighs Save Lives” and has since gained over a million views. Once it got into the Reddit universe that year, its popularity became solidified.
It may be popular but that does not automatically make it true.
So what does science have to say about the matter?
Although fat is generally demonized, time and time again, research points to a primary culprit – abdominal fat. This excess fat around the waistline is associated with increased likelihood of early death than a high BMI is. Bigger hips and thighs when compared to waist circumference is linked with lower risk. Several medical studies including one by the British Medical Journal have said that it storing your fat on your hips and thighs could mean a longer lifespan.
In a Chinese study, it was found that people who fall into the overweight or obese category that had larger thighs had a reduced risk of heart disease. These people were also reported to have had lower blood pressure on average than their counterparts with smaller thighs.
The study has a sample size of 9,250 men and women that were over 40. Out of these, 5,300 were either overweight or obese. It was discovered that overweight men whose thighs measure more than 55cm and women with thighs over 54cm consistently had lower blood pressure. Men with measurements under 51cm and women with theirs less than 50cm had a higher chance of getting a high blood pressure diagnosis.
Cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity around the globe. Especially in developed nations. High blood pressure is particularly rampant with over a billion of the world’s population dealing with it. It exerts increased strain of the blood vessels and heart. This could lead to stroke, kidney disease and other severe medical conditions.
High blood pressure is particularly rampant among African-Americans. Black people develop high blood pressure at younger ages than other groups in the country. They are also more likely to have severe hypertension with complications like stroke, heart disease, visual issues, kidney disease etc.
It seems that African Americans have increased sensitivity to salt which heightens risk and also responds differently to blood pressure medication.
It’s all about Belly Fat vs Thigh Fat
Dr Zhen Yang, a member of the research team for the Chinese study mentioned that thighs may contain kinds of nutrients that the body requires to allow the proper blood flow. Unlike belly fat which is bad for metabolism, thigh fat may in fact have the opposite effect. He stated that this may be due to the fact that thigh fat is deposited just beneath the skin and releases substances that help maintain blood pressure within a specific range.
Another explanation is that the size of thighs more accurately reflects the amount of muscle present compared to abdominal size which is more useful for accessing fat storage. Lean body mass which is partly made up of muscle is associated with more rapid metabolism.
Belly fat is bad even when a person is normal weight. At normal BMI, a person with a waist over 40 inches for men and 34 inches for women would be considered obese. Weight deposition around the waist can lead to its build up in vital organs, particularly the liver. Experts suspect that fat located in this area produces higher amounts of certain proteins that cause inflammation within tissues and organs. They also lead to the narrowing of blood vessels resulting in hypertension due to increased force needed for blood to flow.
Though the common social media phrase might be used more with women, research shows that it applies to both sexes. Male and female body shapes are at the heart of the matter, a genetic predisposition. However, exercise can help build your thigh muscles and shrink your belly fat.
Shrink Your Belly, Strengthen your Thighs
There is no particular exercise of diet that targets belly fat but general exercise and diet plans for weight loss will help. While you do cardio to burn fat, remember to use strength training exercises to build muscles, especially those in the thighs since they have been sited as particularly beneficial to health.
People with pear shapes, hourglass (female) or triangular (female) body shape predisposition are among the lucky ones when it comes to this. Those who are not so lucky can also adjust their diets to discourage the build up of belly fat. Excessive alcohol intake is also a culprit. If these are reduced, a better hip to waist ratio could be achieved.
So do thick thighs save lives? Not necessarily. But the science says you are much better off storing your fat in your thighs than your belly. So the next time you stare at your thick thighs, be more forgiving of them. That’s the best place your fat can go, if it had to go somewhere.