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What you should know about the types of fat inside the human body

16th November 2016
What you should know about the types of fat inside the human body

Body fat tends to have a bad reputation, and is the number one culprit behind a series of health and beauty issues, from cellulite and atherosclerosis to low self-esteem levels, hormone imbalances and obesity-related conditions.

However, not all types of fat are bad, so in today’s article we’ll take a look at the different types of adipose tissue inside the human body, to see how they affect our weight, health and appearance.

The fat types found in your body include brown fat, white, visceral, subcutaneous fat and belly fat. These can in fact be grouped in just two main categories: visceral fat, which surrounds the internal organs, and subcutaneous fat, which is found underneath the skin and represents about 80% of all the body fat.

The distribution of the adipose tissue varies from person to person, depending on age, sex, genetics, diet, lifestyle and level of physical activity, health state. The main purpose of fat is to store energy for later use, but this tissue is also involved in the production of hormones, in regulating the body temperature, in maintaining the beautiful aspect of skin and so on.

Which type of fat is more threatening for your health?

Visceral fat is the most dangerous one because it wraps around the internal organs, and impairs their functioning. This type of tissue can increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and it’s believed to be linked with dementia as well.

A large waistline or belly is a sign that you have a lot of visceral fat, and losing this type of fat may require both diet and exercise. This type of adipose tissue in involved in insulin resistance, and influences the production of leptin, a hormone that controls appetite, learning and memory. To stay healthy you should aim for as little visceral fat as possible.

Belly fat is partly visceral, partly subcutaneous, and it’s not possible to determine which part of it is in which category. A CT scan can tell the difference, but for most people that’s not an option for just a routine check.

Surely, a large belly means, in most cases, that you have both types of fat, so it’s really not that important which of them is found in larger amounts as they’re both unhealthy. But if your waist line is higher than 35-40 inches, you should do your best to lose some weight, as you’re at an increased risk for heart disease.

Belly fat is a lot more dangerous than the adipose tissue on thighs or buttocks, as it has a worse effect on blood lipid levels, and increases the risk for stroke and heart attack. Men tend to accumulate fat in their bellies, while women tend to store it on the thighs and buttocks.

Fat that is found directly under the skin is called subcutaneous, and you can estimate the percentage of this adipose tissue with various tools. Although considered less threatening than visceral fat, this type of tissue is very disturbing. The basic areas where it’s found are the lower body for women and upper body for men, although there can be a lot of variations.

For example, women also tend to store white fat in their upper arms, covering the triceps muscles, and on the inside region of their knees or thighs. Men can also store fat on their thighs but is less common. Abdominal fat is present in both men and women, and even slim people can have such deposits.

Both genders store fat in their back, in higher amounts around the lower back area, and both sexes gain fat in the chest, although for men the fat that builds up in this area can be mistaken for gynecomastia, a condition in which fat also grows in the breast tissue. White fat that is found underneath the skin is more plentiful than another type of adipose tissue, which is considered good: the brown fat.

White fat stores energy and produces hormones that are then released into the bloodstream. It also produces adiponectin, a hormone which helps the liver and muscles use the insulin and sugar in an efficient manner, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Brown fat is often considered a type of muscle tissue, as it burns the white fat, supporting weight loss. It is believed that increasing the amount of brown fat could help treat obesity and other conditions triggered by excess weight, but there’s no solution at the moment for stimulating the production of brown fat. This type of adipose tissue is found in higher amounts in kids but decreases with age, and is involved in keeping the body warm.

If you have excess fat and want to drop some weight, keep in mind that the fat will go away from the most recent areas it appeared, and will be destroyed layer by layer. Also, in most cases it will be lost from the entire body, not just from one body area, so if you want to lose the fat only from your buttocks, that won’t be possible naturally.

What you can do though is work out more and diet, to reduce more of the subcutaneous fat. A lower body fat percentage will make your body look slimmer even if there’s still some fat left on your thighs, buttocks or belly.

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