We think a lot about losing weight to reduce that annoyingly stubborn belly fat. So, it’s only natural that many of us think of fat in terms of where it’s bulging on our bodies, not the type of fat it is.
Well, what do you know, It turns out that the type really matters too.
Research revealed an array of distinctly colored types of body fat, each with its own unique molecular properties and health implications.
Despite the broad use of the word “fat” to describe all body fat and the negativity associated with it, there are some types of body fat that we need to promote a healthy metabolism and hormone levels.
Other types contribute to life-threatening diseases, including:
Let’s get “jiggy” with the skinny on fat, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Brown fat is good fat.
From an evolutionary perspective, brown fat helps to keep a newborn’s core temperature warm.
It’s the brown adipose tissue (BAT) found in the back of the neck that can convert food to heat.
It acts as a muscle when stimulated by cold environments, burning calories for fuel.
Adults do still retain a very small amount of brown fat, typically in the neck and shoulders.
Researchers are interested in finding ways to stimulate the activity of brown fat to help prevent obesity.
Beige fat is a good fat.
This neutral-colored fat, identified just a few years ago, has been harder to study. That’s because it’s mixed in with brown and white fat. It occurs in tiny pea-size deposits near the collarbone and along the spine.
Research on mice shows potential for weight management.
According to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, mice release the hormone irisin from their muscles when they exercise. This converts white fat into brown fat—a process called “browning.”
Since humans have the same hormone in their blood, researchers suspect humans also produce beige fat via exercise.
These fat cells function somewhere between brown and white fat cells. Similarly to brown fat, beige cells can help burn fat rather than store it.
It’s believed that certain hormones and enzymes released when you’re stressed, cold, or when you exercise can help convert white fat into beige fat.
This too is an area of research to possibly help prevent obesity and maximize healthy body fat levels.
White subcutaneous fat is not good.
While some white fat is necessary for good health, too much white fat is very harmful.
In distinct contrast to energy-burning brown fat, white fat is a plentiful, energy-storing type of adipose tissue. It’s made up of large, white cells that are stored under the skin or around the organs in the belly, arms, butt, and thighs.
It has a low rate of metabolic activity.
These fat cells store energy for future use.
This type of fat also plays a large role in the function of hormones such as:
- Leptin (one of the hormones that stimulates hunger)
- Cortisol (a stress hormone)
- Growth hormone
Subcutaneous fat — especially around the belly — is often an indication that there’s a more insidious problem lurking deeper inside your body.
White visceral fat is the worst!
Visceral fat, often referred to as “deep fat,” wraps around your inner organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and heart. For this reason, it’s very hard to remove surgically, with liposuction or with cool sculpting.
It’s the most dangerous of all types of body fat.
Visceral fat has a higher density of cells, carries more blood flow, and more receptors for hormones. Research in the journal Diabetes Care also suggests that visceral fat pumps out immune system chemicals called cytokines.
Cytokines can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by promoting insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.
High visceral fat levels can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, artery disease, and some cancers.
Some fat is essential for sustaining life and a healthy body.
Called essential fat, it plays a major role in hormone regulation, including those that control fertility, vitamin absorption, and temperature regulation.
Essential fat is a type found in your:
- Bone marrow
- Membranes that protect your organs
According to the American Council on Exercise, women need at least 10 to 13 percent of their body composition to come from essential fat to be in good health, while men require at least 2 to 5 percent.
Abdominal obesity creates inflammation.
Belly fat is made up of both subcutaneous and visceral fat.
Even if you ‘re not technically overweight, having a lot of belly fat can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, colorectal cancer and even dementia.
To make matters worse, you can’t see the build-up of visceral fat around your internal organs like you can see the subcutaneous fat on your belly, hips and thighs.
Waist measurement can help you decide if you have too much belly fat.
While it may not be the most sophisticated method, your tape measure is the simplest and least expensive way to gauge whether you have excess belly fat.
The targeted maximum waist size for women is 35 inches and for men, it’s 40.
If you’re wanting to track a measurement other than the number on the scale, track your waist measurement throughout your weight loss journey.
It is possible to be thin on the outside YET fat on the inside (TOFI).
Many people with unhealthy habits who don’t have a big belly don’t realize they’re are in danger too.
The good news is, that whether you can see it or not, you can reduce visceral fat with a healthy diet. And exercise. Because of its rich blood flow, visceral fat is very responsive to exercise.
In fact, this dangerous fat is far more willing to melt away than all that stubborn subcutaneous fat we see when we look in the mirror.
A common assumption is that eating fat makes you fat.
Although fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates or protein, we need a certain amount of dietary fat to sustain good health.
Eating a diet high in refined sugars and processed foods leads to more visceral fat, which, as discussed above, is more dangerous as a predictor of disease than subcutaneous fat.
Bottom line: it’s the refined, processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber that build the worst kind of fat.
I can teach you how to unlock your fat stores and lose weight.
Let’s apply 21st century metabolic science to the weight loss process.
Weight loss depends on the hormonal messages food sends to your body instructing it what to do with incoming energy. It is much less dependent on the number of calories we consume. It’s the nutritional quality of the calories that matter most.
Weight loss requires sending the right hormonal messages to your body in order to be able to access your fat stores.
Isn’t it time you made informed decisions about what you eat rooted in science?
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