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Doubts cast on 'apple shape' warning

A medical U-turn has cast doubt on warnings that being overweight and "apple-shaped" is especially dangerous for the heart.

Researchers who studied 220,000 adults found that fat concentrated around the waist did not increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes any more than general obesity.

Their findings contradict previous evidence that obese individuals with "apple-shaped" bodies are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with other kinds of fat distribution.

The authors of the research argue that earlier studies had delivered a misleading message because of design flaws.

Obesity as measured by a person's Body Mass Index (BMI), which relates weight and height, is a known risk factor for heart disease.

But recent research has suggested that being fat around the middle is especially bad, increasing the risk over and above that resulting from having a high BMI.

Some experts have even challenged the usefulness of BMI as an assessment tool.

The new investigation involved examining data from 58 studies which collectively monitored more than 220,000 adults.