Body fat distribution is an important metabolic and cardiovascular risk factor, because the proportion of abdominal to gluteofemoral body fat correlates with obesity-associated diseases and mortality. Here, we review the evidence and possible mechanisms that support a specific protective role of gluteofemoral body fat. Population studies show that an increased gluteofemoral fat mass is independently associated with a protective lipid and glucose profile, as well as a decrease in cardiovascular and metabolic risk. Studies of adipose tissue physiology in vitro and in vivo confirm distinct properties of the gluteofemoral fat depot with regards to lipolysis and fatty acid uptake: in day-to-day metabolism it appears to be more passive than the abdominal depot and it exerts its protective properties by long-term fatty acid storage. Further, a beneficial adipokine profile is associated with gluteofemoral fat. Leptin and adiponectin levels are positively associated with gluteofemoral fat while the level of inflammatory cytokines is negatively associated. Finally, loss of gluteofemoral fat, as observed in Cushing's syndrome and lipodystrophy is associated with an increased metabolic and cardiovascular risk. This underlines gluteofemoral fat's role as a determinant of health by the long-term entrapment of excess fatty acids, thus protecting from the adverse effects associated with ectopic fat deposition.