The apple body shape (body fat is stored around the middle - i.e. abdomen, chest and surround internal organs, such as the heart) is linked with health problems such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease.

The shape is predominantly a male phenomenon; although women are more prone to develop an apple shape in mid-life, particularly after menopause. This is because the female hormones are present in much smaller amounts and so the shape tends to become more 'male'.

There is also evidence that abdominal fat develops when you are under long-term stress. The hormone cortisol is released during stress, and it seems that high levels of cortisol in the body tend to encourage central fat to accumulate. Researchers at Yale University studied 60 women and found that the more stress they were under, the more fat they stored around their stomach.

In other words, the people most likely to develop an apple body shape are stressed men of any age, and older stressed women.

The apple shaped body effect can be minimized with a sensible diet, regular exercise and stress-reduction techniques.