A new study has challenged previous findings that obese people who are `apple shaped` (fat deposits in the middle of the body) are at higher risk of heart attacks.
Researchers, who looked at 220,000 people over almost 10 years, found that the fat concentrated around the waist did not increase the risk of heart attacks.
Their findings contradict previous evidence that obese individuals with apple-shaped bodies were three times more likely to suffer heart attacks than those with more generally distributed fat, said reports.
Experts, however, have warned that obesity was bad for the heart, no matter where the fat was.
The authors of the new study said that obesity was still a major risk factor for heart disease, but they argued there was confusion about the best way to measure it.
Previous research used the `waist-to-hip` ratio and compared the distance around the hips and waist to measure what is known as central obesity.
It can tell if someone is `apple shaped` - with a bulging middle - or `pear shaped`, with a narrower waist and fatter hips and bottom.
Others have suggested concentrating on a measurement of the waist alone.
The new study, however, found that all three measures indicated risk of heart attack or stroke.
Prof John Danesh from Cambridge University, who led the study, concluded that none of the measures on their own improved the prediction of heart disease, especially when doctors could also assess other warning signs like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
"Whether assessed singly or in combination, body-mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio do not improve prediction of first-onset cardiovascular disease when additional information exists on blood pressure, history of diabetes, and cholesterol measures," said Danesh.
The British Heart Foundation`s associate medical director Dr Mike Knapton said it was clear that no matter how you measure it, obesity is bad for your heart.
"This study suggests that measuring your waist is no better than calculating your BMI," he said.
"We tend to underestimate our body shape and size, so measuring our waist or checking our BMI are both quick and easy ways we can check our health at home," he added.
The study appears in The Lancet medical journal.