"I think that the article makes a fairly compelling point that there are likely differences between these two fat stores," said Floyd Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. "But I think it certainly falls short in making a convincing argument that one is protective and the other is the major source of the problem."
Some of the measurements, he explained, were not performed in a way that would allow for a conclusive judgment. For example, he said a number of studies cited by the researchers used hip circumference to determine where fat was being stored.
Chilton noted that many of the diseases discussed by researchers of the study -- including heart disease and diabetes -- have been connected to inflammation in the body.
"Many of them are increasing in incidence at a very similar rate to the dramatic increase in obesity," he said.
While he is not yet sure that lower body fat can be said to be protective, Chilton said that recent years have shown that biomarkers have helped give a more nuanced picture of how the body regulates itself -- and how conditions like obesity really affect the body.
He gave leptin as an example, a recently discovered hormone found to have a role in regulating appetite -- and one that may be ignored by a more obese body.
"Leptin in particular is a fascinating one, because like insulin, people who are obese develop leptin resistance, where their brain is no longer responding to leptin," said Chilton.
It remains to be seen how much doctors can change about what these biomarkers are doing.