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Fact check: Do leggings really make you fat?

Leggings are comfy (and can be a real wardrobe-booster), but do they actually make you fat?
Leggings are comfy (and can be a real wardrobe-booster), but do they actually make you fat?Ae Pictures Inc. / Getty Images

There are many things you can say about leggings, but most women who wear them will reduce it to one word: comfortable. Yet the super-comfy wardrobe staple recently caused a stir in the blogosphere when the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported on why the popular stretchy pants can make you fat.

Leggings have a downside, according to Sammy Margo, the London physiotherapist quoted in the article. "They hold in and support the quadriceps (thigh muscles), buttocks and core muscles in your tummy, and do the job the muscles are supposed to do."

"As a result the muscles are allowed to relax and switch off ... so they are not as svelte or firm as they otherwise would be,” Margo is quoted as saying.

In short, Margo purports that leggings make muscles "lazy," resulting in flabby legs and untoned tummies. And worst of all, these wardrobe staples actually make you fat by weakening your muscles and increasing body fat.

To be sure, not every figure is flattered by leggings and they can be a downright fashion faux pas for some. But can they actually make you fat?

"That's ridiculous," says Dr. Jana Klauer, a weight loss expert in private practice in New York City. "There's nothing in leggings that would cause any change to occur within the muscle or the fat of the leg," she says.

"If your stomach and legs are flabby, it's because you're eating too much or not exercising enough," says Klauer. "Leggings don't affect your legs positively or negatively -- they're neutral."

While she admits that a too-tight legging on a chunky person can emphasize the wrong things and a fuller figure might look better in a semi-fitted, more relaxed pant, the clothes themselves "can't make you fat or skinny."

 As for the idea that muscles "switch off and relax" when sporting leggings, New Jersey-based dietitian and exercise physiologist Felicia Stoler says there's no credibility to that statement from an anatomical or physiological perspective.

"Our muscles work when you use them, not by putting on certain garments" explains Stoler, the author of "Living Skinny in Fat Genes." "Clothing has no impact on muscle fiber utilization," she says whether its leggings, jeggings, jeans or sweat pants.

 Stoler wears leggings herself, especially when working out. "They're comfortable and I'm not looking for any other value from them."

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